||Posted: Oct. 28 2004,12:10
Repressive laws, abuse of civil liberties by security forces, often resulted in reactionary violence, and keep alive the cycle of violence. I asked myself ‘could I as a committed Christian ever use violence against State injustice?’ ‘Is there such a thing as a Just War?’ I read St. Augustine on justified warfare, and came to see the idea of just war, as a lie, more often used by warmongers to attempt to justify their wars, and proclaiming that war itself is not evil. (George Bush’s theory of pre-emptive strike is only a logical development of the just war theory itself, and he still has Church people supporting him publicly on this basis).
My own questioning took place during the early 70’s in N.Ireland, when there was, and had been for a long time, a great deal of ambiguity, amongst both Christian clergy and laity on the question of violence. I decided to pray about the matter and asked myself, "what would Jesus do"?
In l972, in a Church, looking at the figure of Jesus on the Crucifix, the words ‘love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, do not kill,’ came to me with great clarity. I became conscious of the indwelling presence of God in my heart, in every human heart and in creation. I knew then that God’s purpose for each of us, is to love and be loved, that every human life is sacred, and that I could not hurt or kill another person, in whom God dwells. God’s purpose for each one of us is to be happy and to celebrate the gift of life, but never to take it. //
I remembered too at the Last Supper, Jesus said ‘I give you a new commandment, Love one another, as I have loved you." This is real love. Jesus’ love was not a sanitized, sentimental thing. He suffered State capital punishment, because he saw injustice and he challenged it in words and actions, (as we should). He refused to enter into retaliatory violence. Jesus was not ambivalent about violence. He was totally opposed to it, as we should also be. I believe the crucifixion shows that violence kills, but a response of love makes Resurrection possible.
My journey into pacifism, brought with it an increased responsibility to work for justice and peace, rooted in the belief that there is an alternative to fight or flight, i.e., active nonviolence, and in the words of Fr. John L McKenzie, the just war theory is ‘a phony piece of morality’.
It was out of my belief in the sacredness of life, and that there is an alternative to violence, that in August l976, when my sister Anne’s children were killed, that I got the courage to stand up and say STOP to all the violence. //
I would like to tell you the story about my sister Anne and her children. I believe it is important, because when we talk of War, we talk in big numbers, and loose sight of the suffering caused to individuals and their families. On 10th August, Anne went to visit my mother, with her 4 children. There was a clash between the Irish Republican Army unit, and the Army. The Army shot the Irish Republic Army driver, Danny Lennon, (19) and his car crashed into the family. Anne was seriously ill, and three of the children were killed. (Joanne 8, John 2.l/2 and Andrew 6 weeks old). Only her son Mark (7) was saved.
As a result of this, the Peace People movement started. We invited people from all religions and none, to come together and work for nonviolence and justice. We asked them to remember that life is sacred and to put their common humanity above their divisive tribal politics. We encouraged people to work on common projects in order to build friendship, to do away with divisions, which would leave us forever vulnerable to sectarianism and violence. We encouraged a Northern Irish identity built on trust and friendship, and a new vision of a way forward together. Nonviolence and Community Politics were important, as we were convinced that people working together, would help lift us all out of a demoralized acceptance of violence, into a politics of hope and self-respect. //