Many thanks to those who expressed their love and support around our trial…I’d encourage you to head over to our website to check out reports on the event and its aftermath, particularly some of the court reports by others and the actions that were taken in solidarity. Your prayers were obviously effective in the way things went, wih everyone in the courtroom (no less ourselves) visibly moved by our arguments. Again, many thanks and I’d encourage you to start thinking now about whether you’d like to be involved in resisting Operation Talisman Sabre 09, being held 6-26 July 2009.
Amazing story here about a woman who has put into practice the kind of radical forgiveness Jesus taught and that other groups such as the Amish have demonstrated. Courageous people such as this show that a world of violence and revenge can give way to a world of forgiveness and love of enemy, even in the midst of what must be excruciating pain.
Some great news from the UK (if a bit delayed): the Campaign Against Arms Trade and The Corner House have won a High Court case forcing the Serious Fraud Squad to re-open a corruption investigation into BAE’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The investigation had been closed after pressure from both parties was put on the UK government. The Court called it a “paradigm case” that concerns “the way this country is governed”.
Insipring news for those of us planning to protest the international arrms expo in Adelaide in November!
We’d like to request your help as we front court in a little over a week.
If you could find some time to write a letter in support of the Samuel Hill 4 as we front the Yeppoon Magistrates Court, it would be greatly appreciated. We’d ideally like to have letters of support as people, saying that our actions were consistent with the rest of our lives, but more importantly letters that support our action. The details of what we did can be found at our website.
My friend and inspiring brother John Dear sent me an email reading like an epistle from jail that brought to mind both the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther King’s vision and faith behind bars. While the Powers that be had him in court doing all they can do accuse him personally and attack him, including the judge calling him (“a renegade priest, a renegade citizen”, “a phony”, and “a person of violence’), John received news that he has been officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as well as India’s Peace Prize by people like the Vice President of India and Desmond Tutu. John has also been nominated for India’s Gandhi Peace Prize.
It was only this time last year that we were both swimming of the cost of Waterman’s beach in Western Australia, when John was letting me that we have do this “for the God of Peace and we might never get recognised. But who cares… we are having so much fun!”
Congratz John from our Peace Tree Community and our mates in Australia. We thank you for your witness, your life, your friendship, your faith and your courage and the way you make us laugh and worship. Thanks for reminding us all that this journey with the Spirit is fun!
Here is a photocopy of the letters we wrote to the Generals of the Australian and US forces before we walked onto Samuel Hill Airbase. We handwrote the letters for a personal touch. Not sure if they ever made it to the generals, but they were with the military for at least a day. Click on them to see a larger version.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. soldier who said his Christian beliefs compelled him to love his enemies, not kill them, has been granted conscientious objector status and honorably discharged, a civil liberties group said on Tuesday.
Capt. Peter Brown — who served in Iraq for more than a year and was a graduate of the elite U.S. military academy West Point — said in a statement issued by the New York Civil Liberties Union that he was relieved the Army had recognized his beliefs made it impossible for him to serve.
“In following Jesus’ example, I could not have fired my weapon at another human being, even if he were shooting at me,” said Brown, who plans to continue seminary classes he began by correspondence while in Iraq.
While in Iraq, Brown processed insurgents and detainees, the NYCLU said.
Brown said he had no conflict between his faith and military service until after he graduated from West Point in 2004 and began to study scripture and his belief.
During his Iraq deployment he applied for discharge as a conscientious objector but the request was denied, the NYCLU said. In July 2007 the NYCLU and the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to order the honorable discharge.
“Before the court acted, the Army reconsidered the issue, this time granting Brown’s request,” said the NYCLU, adding it would now withdraw the lawsuit.
The U.S. Army was not immediately available for comment.
Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics understand neither.” -Mohandas K. Gandhi
“God will judge you for what you did today!!!”
If phone text messages could yell, I think this one I received might have been screaming. It was clear, not just from this sentence but the whole message (which I will not repeat) that this brother or sister (Identity withheld under the “I’m not being a fantastic witness” protection program) wanted to ‘open up a can of correction’ on me. What provoked this responce? The day of the last election we had in Australia I sent the following message to friends on my mobile phone:
“G’day, was think that while many don’t care about today, maybe if we live today for “the least of these”, the poor and the marginalised, today could be an act of worship. Grace and peace, Jarrod.”
While it sparked some amazing conversations with people who aren’t Christians, it really upset this one Christian. Another friend message back:
“So I guess you’re voting for [insert party]? :)”
“Who’s talking about voting for a party? I’m just talking about daily following Jesus. :)”
Political options in Australia: Howard, Rudd or… Jesus?
Both major parties in Australia are kissing more than babies in the hope of votes. In an interesting twist it looks like political parties are “finding religion”, in the faith that this move will find them votes. As the political master minds are plotting how to capture the Christian imagination to win their vote at the next election, I wonder what would happen if the church had it’s imagination captured by the politics of a suffering servant that saves not through tickling ears, the way of the sword, scapegoating others or by enforcing what is ‘right’ on others. Rather who saves through the suffering love of a crucified God. I wonder what would happen if we would let the Holy Spirit empowered the church to live the politics of the kingdom of heaven instead of in our own power seeking to be ‘a force for influence’ in running the violent kingdoms of this world?I’m not talking about retreating into a holy huddles and letting the world go to hell. While Ammon Hennacy words ring in my ears, “When choosing the lesser between two evils people often forget they still chose evil”, I must admit I’m a “lapsed-Christian-anarchist” and I do vote. But I don’t think voting is my primary form of ‘political engagement’.
My political engagement happens daily living as church in community, by housing those without a home, hanging out and making food for local kids without a meal, welcoming refugees to live in our home, visiting people in prison, growing food in the garden, getting to work on my skateboard and bus, teaching the practicalities of nonviolence. And other ways God lets our lives be a megaphone of amazing grace despite the fact we’re cracked vessels (or crackpots!)
We are to be ‘in the world but not of the world’. So what are we to be of? We are to be of the way of Jesus. The way of the kingdom of God. The politics of grace. The politics of generosity. The politics a new age where it’s not the rich but the poor who are blessed. The politics of the ministry of reconciliation. The politics of the weightier matters of law. The politics of the trust of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The politics of forgiveness. The politics of peacemaking. The politics of hungering and thirsting for the healing justice of God. The politics of sharing so ‘no one is in need’. The politics of being a colony of heaven. The politics of seeking first God’s Reign (or kingdom) in all things. For the early church, you could look at their life and see their politics, see who they were ‘voting for’ as their authority. Thier words and lives spoke a different politics to the violent ruler Cesar being Lord (maybe the closest thing we have today is Prime Minister) but the crucified and risen Jesus. Maybe the early Christians today wouldn’t say “Jesus is Lord”. Maybe they’d say, “The nonviolent Jesus of the Scriptures is Prime Minister. Come and join us in community where we can daily vote for him with our lives!”
- For the early Christians politics wasn’t a personal decision alone in a polling both. It was a communal practice with your sisters and brothers as you together lived as church. The community of God’s grace-filled alternative to the ways of greed, lust, oppression, violence, fear and exploitation.
And while many want to say Amen to the above the question comes ‘how’ do we do that. Politics classically isn’t about just who’s in ’government’ but how, (or the way) groups interact, organize and make decisions. (I think this is important to remember not just to keep democracy healthy but to keep church healthy! ) For the early Christians the only way you witnessed to Jesus being the Way is by living the Way (or ‘politics’) of Jesus. By seeking the Spirit’s empowerment to live a Christ-like life, AS A COMMUNITY. To live lives that speak of God’s great clean up of creation that God has started uniquely in Jesus.
This is where I think Gandhi can be the greatest assistance to Christians today. In showing us that being obedient to Jesus is not only faithful, it’s effective in bringing real and lasting transformation. For those that think our only options is retreating into holly huddles or alternatively those who seek to put in power a Christian version of the Ayatollah to kneecap everyone so that “every knee bows” (Calvin and others have tried it), Gandhi shows us, as Martin Luther King puts it, “Jesus gave us the means, Gandhi showed it was possible.”
Gandhi freed a nation from the biggest superpower of his day without a militia, without weapons, without running for parliament or holding a political position. How? By the sheer force of his character that had become obedient to Jesus teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. The politics of love are practical. Oddly enough I think Gandhi as a Hindu had a better understanding of the Christian paradigm for political engagement than most Christians seem to! The Christian paradigm is found at Calvary while trusting in resurrection power. For it’s impossible to take up our cross and take up the ways of coercion at the same time.
Oh… for those who are interested I agree with the person who sent me the text, God will “judge [me] for what [I’ve] done”. And after reaching out and trying to hear where they’re coming from and offering to meet with them, pray with them and study the bible with them I told them I agreed:
“I too think God will judge me. And in Matthews gospel, chapter 25 the criteria seems pretty clear, how we respond to those with little or no voice, “the least of these”.
For those interested in finding out more about the peace convergence at the Shoalwater Bay Military Facility in June this year during the Talisman Sabre Military Exercises, and in particular about the group of five Christian activists who nonviolently disrupted them, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions. More information can be found here at our blog, or email us.
Who are the Samuel Hill 5?
Simon Moyle (Urban Seed, Melbourne), Simon Reeves (Jahwork, Melbourne), Krystal Spencer (Jahwork, Melbourne) and Sarah Williams (Jahwork, Melbourne) and Carole Powell (Pace e Bene, Brisbane).
Where is Shoalwater Bay and what is its significance?
Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) is a huge military base on the central coast of Queensland, and part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is home to an enormous amount of wildlife that need to be protected, including endangered whales and dugongs. With the Australian and many other militaries doing live fire exercises there, including land and sea bombing, this should be an issue of concern to the Australian people.
What did you do?
As part of the wider peace convergence, the four Melbournians travelled to Shoalwater Bay on Jun 17th. Two days later Carole joined us there. After four days of intense planning (preceded by several weeks of planning), and a long walk through the bush in the rain, we arrived at the fence which marks the boundary of the restricted military base. Soon after, we entered the military training area, found the main control centre base (Samuel Hill) and walked openly down the middle of the airstrip in an attempt to be as obvious as possible.Despite our openness, it took quite some time for anyone to notice us. When they finally did we approached them, assured them that we were unarmed and peaceful, and asked them to play frisbee with us. To our surprise and delight, they did. I asked to see their generals as we had two letters to give them. They then called their commanding officer who shut down the base, and they invited us inside for coffee and lunch. We spent about an hour and a half talking with both Australian and US soldiers about Iraq, violence and nonviolence, and the exercises themselves before being arrested by Queensland police and taken to Rockhampton.
Why on earth did you do that?
There are three main reasons for why we did it:
1. To establish a reasoned and respectful dialogue with the soldiers. As protests are often restricted to yelling from behind a fence, we wanted to change the dynamic, to engage face to face with the people behind the uniform, and for them to do the same with us.
2. At the same time, we knew that any presence of civilians on the base would immediately halt the war games. Therefore another aim was to disrupt the exercises with our presence.
3. We wanted to see the base transformed from somewhere war games were conducted to a place where peace games are played. Hence not only did our presence cause the shutting down of the military activities, but we invited the soldiers to play frisbee with us on the tarmac.
Why are you the Samuel Hill 5?
Samuel Hill Air Force Base is the place we walked onto in the SWBTA. It is the main command centre for the SWBTA, and where the generals were based. Sometimes we’ve been referred to as the ‘Frisbee 5’ because we played frisbee with the troops.
Ploughshares legend, Ciaron OReilly, send this, well worth a watch:
“1968, 9 Catholic anti-war activists raided a draftboard in destroying draft cards in nonviolent resistance to the . Daniel Berrigan, his brother Philip and six others were sentenced to prison. Christian Brother David Darst died before sentencing. Daniel Berrigan wrote a play based on the trial later turned into a film by . Hollywood stars, including Tim Robins & , gathered recently to do a reading of the play in opposition to America’s present wars.”