|Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP arrested at prayerful, non-violent witness for peace|
|Photo by Art Laffin|
On December 27 and 28 I gathered with friends in the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities and other peacemakers for a retreat at St. Stephen’s church in Washington, D.C and a nonviolent witness at the Pentagon. We were commemorating the Massacre of the Holy Innocents from the past and the present. We were also honoring Dan Berrigan, SJ, a friend and mentor to many believers of peace with justice, who died on April 30, 2016.
The afternoon began with a powerful scriptural reflection by Steve Baggarly of the Norfolk (VA) Catholic Worker Community.
Within the context of the of the birth narrative, he addressed the slaughter of the innocents by imperial Rome and Pax Romana. He contrasted the Kindom of God and the Gospel of Jesus with the behavior of the Roman Empire -- always expanding its military prowess and control much like the unrelenting violence of the US Empire today, which claims the globe as its battlefield, causing the death of the innocents. Steve’s talk prompted much discussion including how Dan Berrigan’s life continues to inspire resistance. Soon after, we read Sr. Anne Montgomery’s unpublished poem about the killing of holy innocents.
Much of the afternoon we spent talking about our action at the Pentagon during which we would use life-size cardboard figures of Dan and a banner displaying the statement of the Catonsville Nine: “The violence stops here, the death stops here, the suppression of truth stops here, this war stops here."
During the evening we celebrated a liturgy led by Nathan, an Episcopal priest with whom I talked, and Amanda who gave a captivating reflection on the resistance of the Hebrew midwives. After the Eucharist, I was invited to read Dan’s piercing poem, “Prayer for the Morning Headlines.” It follows.
After supper we heard from several activists who had traveled to South Dakota to join in solidarity with the water protectors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their prophetic campaign of nonviolent resistance.
As there was room at Dorothy Day CW, I spent the night there and was up a little after 5 a.m. for our 7 a.m. witness at the Pentagon. Sixteen of us walked up to the knoll area with our banners and cut-out of Dan. Eventually we made our way down to the sidewalk, blocking it in waves. I had never seen so few police officers at the Pentagon. We sang “Vine and Fig Tree” along with activists in the designated protest area. We were arrested, driven to a nearby police station and processed. Our court date is March 2, 2017 at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.
We returned to St. Stephen’s for breakfast and a talent show we enjoyed given by the younger activists. On the ride back to Baltimore with Matt and Amy who use to live at the Jonah House, I got to sit between their infant daughter Penny and two-year-old son Eli who soon fell asleep.
Prayer For The Morning Headlines by Daniel Berrigan
Mercifully grant peace in our days.
Through your help may we be freed from present distress.
Have mercy on women and children homeless in foul weather, ranting like bees among gutted barns and stiles.
Have mercy on those (like us) clinging one to another under fire, terror on terror, grapes the grapeshot strikes.
Have mercy on the dead, befouled, trodden like snow in hedges and thickets.
Have mercy, dead man, whose grandiose gentle hope died on the wing, whose body stood like a tree between strike and fall, stood like a cripple on his wooden crutch.
We cry: Halt!
We cry: Password!
Dishonored heart, remember and remind, the open sesame:
From there to here, from innocence to us:
Hiroshima, Dresden, Guernica, Selma, Sharpeville, Coventry, Dachau.
Into our history, Pass!