From Janice Sevre-Duszynska
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
Holy Innocents Retreat
December 27-28, 2018
Pentagon Witness, early Friday morning
For me the Pentagon represents the dark side of the psyche. Its Legions and weapons of mass destruction have wreaked chaos upon many innocent children, women and men, (including its own soldiers-our children) as well as to our Holy Mother Earth.
So before leaving the house last Thursday for the Holy Innocents Retreat, I grabbed the perennial companion from my days of witnessing to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Women, Earth and Creator Spirit by beloved Sister Elizabeth Johnson, from the Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality, St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.
I wanted to share a prayer and blessing from this booklet that would reclaim the massive space occupied by the Pentagon in the name of Holy Mother Earth and The Sacred Feminine, restoring its Life-giving powers. So with the heavens awash in rainfall, I began with my own words followed by an introduction, then a prayer from artist and religious thinker Meinrad Craighead:
I reclaim this place for the children of Holy Mother Earth and for all that is Life-Giving.
‘”The symbol of the Creator Spirit is like the Native American indwelling spirit named Old Wind Woman: ‘The dark wind of my Mother expands and contracts, winding to and from the hub of the spinning wheel, which is everywhere. She spirals, uncoiling and returning to her source; her spirit evolving, involving the entire universe.’”
Meinrad Craighead, The Mother’s Songs: Images of God the Mother (NY: Paulist, 1986) 65.
I bless this place with the fiery power of the Spirit of which Hildegarde of Bingen writes:
“’I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every living spark
And I have breathed out nothing that can die….I flame above the
Beauty of the fields; I shine in the waters; in the sun, the moon and
the stars, I burn. And by means of the airy wind, I stir everything
into quickness with a certain invisible life which sustains all…..I,
the fiery power, lie hidden in these things and they blaze from me.’”
From Hildegarde of Bingen: Mystical Writings, Fiona Bowie and Oliver Davies, eds. (NY: Crossroad, 1990) 91-93.
Each day within the warmth, comfort and safety of our own hearths we are confronted with the heart wrenching suffering of so many of our sisters and brothers across Holy Mother Earth. With these thoughts embedded in my soul, I felt strongly about my need to participate in the 2018 Holy Innocents Retreat and Pentagon Witness with Catholic Workers and others in the peace movement.
Janice Sevre-DuszynskaMy contribution to the Lectio Divina scripture sharing AND my third Pentagon action-witness arose from my recent trip to the SOAWatch Border Encuentro in Nogales, AZ and Mexico. While there, I saw where the shooting of the 15-year old Mexican teenager by a US border guard took place. The child was shot first in the head and then ten times in the back, and the guard was acquitted at trial.John Lindsay-Poland, who was with the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1989 to 2014, led a workshop about the militarization of Mexico mainly by the U.S. I brought back with me the booklet "Gross Human Rights Abuses: The Legal and Illegal Gun Trade to Mexico" produced by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights and "Stop US Arms to Mexico." I am astonished at the insatiable greed of international arms manufacturers, although most sales to Mexico are from U.S. weapons manufacturers which supply guns, bullets and now drones. These are being used by the Mexican military and local police stations.As we gathered on the Mexican side of what we call "The Border," a young wife and mother of three young children spoke of how the Mexican military broke into their home and took away her husband three months before. She has not heard from him since nor does she know where he is or what has happened to him. She pledges to stay strong and continue the search for him. We also heard from an Abuelita who wept unceasingly for the recovery of her grandson who presumably perished in the Sonora Desert.We recognized the suffering of the people of God from the U.S. militarization of the homelands of Central American indigenous people as well as the ongoing suffering in Colombia. In Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador, indigenous are slaughtered while trying to protect their lands.Years before, I heard stories during the UN Commission on the Status of Women from women from Iraq, Afghanistan, The Sudan, Congo and Nigeria. More recently, I have heard about what is happening in Syria, Somalia and Niger as well as in Egypt, which I visited in 2006. Some of us hear the cries of the children and their families in Yemen and Palestine. Those in Yemen have their lives devastated from the US arms sales to the Saudis, and the people of Palestine suffer the inhumane consequences of the U.S. government alliance with the inhumane occupation by the government of Israel.Mother Earth herself is a suffering Holy Innocent, as Pentagon warmongering is the number one perpetrator of ecocide. I had to engage in an act of resistance on December 28.
Art Laffin's report follows.
(The above photo was taken at the start of the Pentagon witness)Dear Friends,From December 27-28, about 20 members from the Atlantic and Southern Life communities, and other peacemaking friends, gathered for a retreat at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church in Washington, D.C., and a nonviolent witness at the Pentagon to commemorate the Massacre of the Holy Innocents – past and present.The retreat began at 2 PM on December 27 with introductions and orientation followed by a very rich community Lectio Divina scripture sharing on Matthew's account of the massacre of the innocents. (Mt. 2:13-18)After a short break, Joan and Don Wages, along with their amazing college age sons, Nolan and Jackson, offered an inspiring presentation about their family journey to follow the Gospel call of nonviolence. This included Don sharing about why he left his job working for the military contractor Lockheed Martin, and Joan's decision to become involved in social activism and civil resistance actions. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in preparation for the nonviolent witness at the Pentagon.After dinner we celebrated liturgy together. As part of the liturgy we listened to and reflected together in small groups on the audio version of Martin Luther King Jr's powerful Christmas Sermon on Peace of 1967, which was recorded as part of the Massey Lectures on CBC radio. The sermon was accompanied by a compelling slide show documenting King's involvement in the civil rights and peace movements.Braving a heavy steady rain, the community gathered early the next morning at the Pentagon's southeast entrance with signs and banners. As we exited the metro we were met by a Pentagon police detail who escorted us to the designated protest area. As Pentagon workers walked by, an introduction to our presence was offered. The Gospel passage about the slaughter of the holy innocents was proclaimed. The Coventry Carols was sung. A litany was offered (see below) interspersed with the refrain: "War Hurts Children—Help Us End War." And a prayer and blessing was given by Janice, one of the four about to risk arrest.Carrying copies of the "Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons" with the intention of delivering it to a Pentagon official and requesting that the U.S. ratify it, four members of the community made their way to the police check point closest to the building where they encountered Pentagon police. They were told by the officers that they must leave or face arrest. While the first several paragraphs of the Treaty were read, a Pentagon worker passed by and said "Thank you for keeping us honest." After arrest warnings were given they were placed under arrest. As the four were being escorted to police vehicles, the rest of the community, from a distance sang "The Cry of Ramah!" The witness concluded with everyone singing "Vine and Fig Tree" as the community processed down the escalator and into the Pentagon metro station lobby.Upon returning to the church, there was a pot-luck breakfast, clean-up, and an evaluation of the Pentagon witness and retreat. We were all ever so grateful for our time together.The four who were arrested were taken to the Pentagon Police center where they were processed and charged with "Disobeying A Lawful Order." All were released and given a March 21 court dateat the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.However, the group will request a new court date as several people will not be able to make the assigned court appearance.Those Arrested:Joan WagesBill Frankel-StreitJanice Sevre-DuszynskaDave MacMillanPentagon LitanyThe Massacre of the Innocents Starts at the Pentagon! Let us Stop It Here and Now!Intro:Today, Christian churches commemorate the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, recalling how Herod, fearful of being removed from power, sought to destroy the child Jesus by ordering the slaughter of boys under two years old in and around Bethlehem. We, members of the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities and other peace groups, come to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, to remember the innocents who have died--past and present--due to greed, oppression, racism and war. Today, in this time of perpetual war and climate chaos, the lives of countless innocents, like those in Bethlehem, are endangered. Our faith compels us to nonviolently resist this onslaught.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!The United States military magnifies destruction across the globe, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and throughout the Middle East. From overt wars to covert “dirty wars,” which involve the use of lethal killer drones, countless lives are destroyed, displaced and disappeared. We are ever so mindful that children are always the first victims of war.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!In Yemen, the U.S. continues to provide direct military support and weapons to Saudi Arabia in its brutal war against the Houthi rebels, even though a recent Senate resolution called for an end to such support. Thousands have died from the war, starvation is widespread and suspected cholera cases have exceeded one million.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!Save the Children conservatively estimates that 85,000 Yemeni children under age five have died from starvation and disease during the last three years. Mainstream media and even governments of large and wealthy countries are finally beginning to acknowledge the anguish suffered by Yemeni children and their families. Stark photos show listless, skeletal children who are minutes or days away from death.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!The violence of the U.S. power structure is unrelenting. Within our own boundaries it continues to crush the poor, target people of color, demonize Muslims, oversee a mass incarceration complex, demean, detain, tear gas and separate immigrants and their families and militarize the southern border. To date eight migrants have died at the border in U.S. custody, including two children, Felipe and Jakilyn.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!Fear, violence and greed are the hallmarks of the Trump Administration and U.S. power structure. And always, the existence of nuclear weapons puts all life in utter peril. This threat is further exacerbated by past and present provocative actions towards N. Korea and Iran by an unpredictable president, the deployment of U.S. missile defense systems designed to threaten and contain Russia and China, and the U.S. militarization of space.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!Every day, the world’s addiction to oil, natural gas and nuclear power is the cause of environmental contamination that is threatening global devastation. The Dakota Access pipeline is but one example of the earth's desecration, and which is continuing to be courageously resisted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other water protectors. With nearly 800 military bases worldwide establishing its vast war machine, the Pentagon is the world's single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, making it a major contributor to destabilizing the climate.Refrain: War Hurts Children, Help Us End War!“Redeem the times,” proclaims the late peacemaking prophet, Jesuit Priest, Daniel Berrigan, along with countless others. “The times are inexpressibly evil. And yet, the times are inexhaustibly good, solaced by the courage and hope of many. The truth rules, Christ is not forsaken."The violence, massacres and disregard for the truth and human life stops here today at the Pentagon. Now is the time for personal and societal transformation. In solidarity with sisters and brothers around the world, we resolve to:--renounce and resist all killing, violence, racism and torture--end environmental destruction, poverty and economic inequality--respect the human rights of all people, especially immigrants and refugees --train and form diplomats, truth commissions, developers of international economies, trade specialists, nonviolent reconciliation teams, hospital ships, institutes for justice and peace, renewable energy implementation, mass transit lines, etc.--commit in policy that our country eliminate war and weapons forever, hammer all swords into plowshares and convert the war economy so our planet and people may live--build homes for all, assure healthy food for all, develop health care and education for all, plan an economy for full employment--implore the U.S. and all nuclear nations to sign, ratify, and implement the UN Treaty for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons--celebrate God’s creation with joy.As we move into a New Year we invite you to join with us as we strive to create the beloved community and a nonviolent world.