By Kelly, Tom
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 38, No. 36
Pax Christi USA has served notice that escalated war on Iraq by the United States will trigger civil disobedience throughout this country. The international Catholic peace organization's board committed itself to that action at the Pax Christi USA National Assembly held at the University of Detroit-Mercy July 26-28. Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton urged the assembly's 600-plus participants to sign a pledge of resistance against U.S. military action in Iraq.
"The war in the Persian Gulf in 1991 was an unjust war condemned by Pope John Paul II," said Gumbleton, who was founding president of the U.S. branch of the peace organization and headed it from 1972 to 1991. "Any new war against Iraq will be an unjust war. We must say `No!'"
The civil disobedience pledge was sponsored by eight national peace groups. In addition to Pax Christi USA they include the American Friends Service Committee, Education for Peace in Iraq Center, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, National Network to End the War against Iraq, and Voices in the Wilderness. The petition, which was circulated for signatures at the assembly, indicates willingness "to join with others to engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience at U.S. federal facilities in order to prevent or halt the death and destruction that U.S. military action causes the people of Iraq."
Gumbleton proposed that next year Pax Christi members gather Aug. 6, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, at a place like Oak Ridge, Tenn., "where they are making the new nuclear weapons that we will be preparing to use. ... We must have our bodies there, do civil disobedience there, and say no to nuclear weapons in a very dramatic way," he said. He also called for a 22-day fast starting on July 16, anniversary of the first nuclear device explosion in Nevada in 1945.
In his keynote talk, Gumbleton contrasted choices between Pax Americana--"the peace of America" as represented by Bush administration foreign policy--and Pax Christi, the peace of Christ. He recalled that when President George Bush announced the war strikes in Afghanistan Oct. 7 he said, "We are a peaceful nation." Gumbleton then listed 19 military conflicts involving "this peaceful nation" since 1945, adding "and now Afghanistan."
The Bush administration's proposed nuclear missile defense is not a defensive strategy, but rather part of a first strike capability, Gumbleton said. "Pax Americana: bombing, killing, wherever we decide."
Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, the assembly's first keynoter, touched on the assembly's theme, "Casting Out Fear, Building on Hope, Living Nonviolence," when she recalled the gospel narrative of the Transfiguration. She noted that Jesus identified himself with Moses, who led people out of oppression, and with Elijah, whom King Ahab called "the trouble-maker of Israel," the one who "exposed to the people the underlying causes of their problems, so they could both he'd the present and have hope in a better future."
"Our ministry must be not only to comfort but to challenge church, state and community; not just to attend to the pain but to advocate for change; not simply to care for the victims of the world but also to change the institutions that victimize them," Chittister said
At one orientation session, first-time attendees were asked why they were there. …