What does it mean to be a Catholic peacemaker:
- In a country in which more than half of all of its discretionary spending goes to the military? That means, for instance, that in 2015, of the $1.11 trillion in discretionary spending available for allocation by Congress, 54 percent of it, or $598.5 billion, went to the Pentagon and other defense areas, according to the National Priorities Project. Military spending has dropped over the past four or five years, largely because of withdrawal of troops from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it is on schedule to begin rising again.
"We have heard the voice of the poor, of children and the younger generations, of women and so many brothers and sisters who are suffering due to war. With them let us say with conviction: No to war! May the anguished cry of the many innocents not go unheeded. Let us urge leaders of nations to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs. We need a greater commitment to eradicating the underlying causes of conflicts: poverty, injustice and inequality, the exploitation of and contempt for human life." Pope Francis
"There are people making money on the trafficking of weapons," said the cardinal.
Last night 9 peacemakers vigiled outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor, ten miles south of D.C., to decry the scandalous Air Force Association (AFA) annual "Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo," what we call an "Arms Bazaar." Some 150 arms contractors are taking part in this year's Arms Bazaar. Our vigil coincided with a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen. Members of Pax Christi, two Carmelite sisters and friends from several other peace groups attended the vigil which was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. The action was held in solidarity with Campaign Nonviolence (CN), a long-term movement to build a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, the climate crisis, and the epidemic of violence and injustice. This week CN is sponsoring some 700 actions in the U.S. and worldwide.
As we arrived at the Gaylord, a contingent of Gaylord security and Prince George Police were on hand to greet us. Max Obuszewski and Janice Sevre-Duszynska were the first to arrive and had an animated exchange with the head of security. Shortly afterwards, I was able to give security and police our leaflet (see below) and invited them to join with us. Several police vehicles stationed at the Gaylord main entrance remained at the site for the duration of our vigil.
Our witness began with singing "Down By the Riverside" and the reading of our leaflet. Bob More then read the Gospel account of the Beatitudes (Lk. 6:2-28). This was followed by Janice, Max and Sr. Carmen Soto reading a selection of Dr. King's Riverside Church April 4, 1967 speech about why he opposed the Vietnam War. Bob Cooke then offered a prayer to exorcise the evil of militarism and convert our lives to God's command to love. We then sang "Do Not Be Overcome by Evil." This was followed by Janice, Max, Bob Cooke, Steve Bush and I sharing reflections about the human cost of warmaking, the plight of refugees, the courageous witness of whistle-blower and truth teller, Edward Snowden, the urgent need to cancel weapons systems like the $400 billion F-35 Joint-Strike fighter program, killer-drones and all nuclear weapons, and the moral imperative of exposing and resisting the addiction to militarism. A Litany of Repentance and Hope was then offered by Brian Barrett and Sr. Carmen. We then lit candles and sang "This Little Light of Mine," as we remembered all victims of violence and war, the holy cloud of witnesses past and present, imprisoned truth-tellers, resisters and whistle-blowers, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all who are acting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and all who are working today to bring about God's reign of justice, love and peace. We concluded our witness by singing the Vine & Fig Tree and having a closing circle.
Let us redouble our efforts to do all we can to nonviolently resist the forces of violence, racism and death and witness to the God of Life and Love as we strive to create the Beloved Community.
Stop the Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo "Arms Bazaar!"
“War should always scandalize the faithful...Think of the children starving in refugee camps, these are the fruits of war. And then think of the great dining rooms, of the parties held by those who control the arms industry, who produce weapons. Compare a sick, starving child in a refugee camp with the big parties, the good life led by the masters of the arms trade.”
-- Pope Francis, February 25, 2014 Mass at the Vatican's Santa Marta Chapel
"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
-- Pope Francis, September 24, 2015 Speech to the U.S. Congress
From September 19-21, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is once again playing host to the Air Force Association (AFA) "Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo," what we call an "Arms Bazaar." The AFA, according to its web site, is "the voice for aerospace power and the Air Force family." This year's Arms Bazaar will focus on: "Air, Space & Cyber Theme: Airmen, Industry, and Allies-A Global Security Team." Some 150 arms contractors taking part in this years Arms Bazaar have played a prominent role in U.S. warmaking. These arms contractors, like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, are profiting from war and literally are making a killing! But that's not all. The Pentagon and numerous arms dealers are committed to U.S. nuclear/military/cyber superiority and militarizing and controlling space.
As the world’s preeminent military superpower, the U.S. is the #1 arms dealer with $46.6 billion in foreign military sales for 2015. The U.S. supplies weapons to much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. U.S. arms sales in the Middle East are fueling widespread wars in the region, as the U.S. continues its quest to destroy ISIS. In concert with weapons contractors participating in the AFA Arms Bazaar, the U.S. is engaged in direct military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, continues its military support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, threatens Russia over its involvement in the Ukraine, proceeds with its military "pivot" in the Asia-Pacific to threaten and contain China, and wages killer drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
Additionally, the U.S. continues its "Missile Defense" deployments encircling China and Russia, constituting a flagrant violation of its Anti-Ballistic missile treaty with Russia. Moreover, the U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion over the next thirty years to modernize its own nuclear arsenal, instead of pursuing a real path to disarmament. And the U.S. military, the world's single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, is directly destabilizing the earth's climate. The victims cry out for justice, and the earth, under daily assault, groans in travail!
During its three day Arms Bazaar, the AFA is sponsoring nearly 40 forums addressing how the U.S. can refine its warmaking apparatus and cyber capability so it can dominate earth and space. Tonight the AFA is holding a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen. On Wednesday night there will be a similar banquet. We decry the AFA Arms Bazaar for what it is: a scandalous affront to God, a theft from the poor, and a threat to people worldwide and all of creation!
Who will speak for the poor and the victims, as arms dealers reap huge profits from their lethal weapons and death technology? Who will protect our sacred earth and environment? We urgently need, more than ever, to nonviolently resist all war and violence--from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza, to Ferguson, NYC, Baltimore, Charleston, Orlando, D.C. and elsewhere. Together, let us continue to do all we can to establish the Beloved Community, end the climate crisis, eradicate poverty and create a world free of nuclear and conventional weapons, killer drones, war, racial hatred and oppression. In the name of God, who calls us to love and not to hate, demonize and kill, it's time to end the AFA Arms Bazaar!
Please join with us as we seek to say YES to Life and a resounding NO to the merchants of death and war profiteers.
For more info please contact the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: 202-882-9649.