USA: Response to the Massacre in Charleston; Grieve, But then Teach and Organize Nonviolence


An article by the Reverend John Dear in the Huffington Post (abridged and reprinted according to fair use)

Like millions of others, I’m grieving the death of the nine church folk killed in the unthinkable massacre inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday night. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the dead, and the church members, and I offer all my condolences, prayers, blessings and love. . .

John Dear
Click on photo to enlarge

Of course, this was a hate crime, an act of violent racism and domestic terrorism. Press reports claim that the insane young man who shot the church goers had just been given a gun by his father for his 21st birthday. No doubt he was a sociopath, an advocate of hatred and racism, a white supremacist, the normal product of our culture of guns, hatred, racism, violence and war.

Like millions of others, I feel swept up in grief. Where does one start? The police killings of African Americans such as Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott (of South Carolina, in April)—these are just the well known names. Thousands have been killed. And the big massacres such as Virginia Tech college students, the Sandy Hook elementary school children, the Boston marathon runners and bystanders, and the Aurora, Colorado movie goers. One could go on.

But my grief mingles with the grief of the world, the quiet death of millions of children from extreme poverty and unnecessary disease, and the deliberate killing of children by the U.S. war machine.

Not too long ago, I spent days listening to teenagers in Kabul, Afghanistan, cry as they told me in detail how their loved ones were blown up by U.S. drones which dropped bombs upon them. I remember visiting the Catholic high school for girls in Baghdad and being surrounded by hundreds of girls who cried as they denounced the U.S. bombings and war. I recall the hundreds of people I met in the 1980s in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala who wept as they told me about the killing of their loved ones by U.S. backed death squads. I have witnessed the tears of grief brought on by the forces of death as well in India, South Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Colombia, Northern Ireland, and the Philippines.

For me, like all my activist friends, it is a lifetime of grief in solidarity with sisters and brothers around the world whose loved ones died by the systemic forces of greed, war, violence and death.

That’s why I see beyond the sickness of hatred, racism and sexism toward something deeper—an addiction to violence–to death itself–that inflicts nearly every living human being to some degree, an addiction which fuels the unjust national and global systems which bring death to so many poor people. It’s like everyone, especially us North Americans, is addicted to crack cocaine, yet we don’t know it, much less try to become sober. We’re all full of violence, and we go forward, not knowing what to do. So we maintain a culture of violence, torture, war and nuclear weapons as if that’s a perfect reasonable way to maintain a society. It’s as if we’re all living in a zombie movie.

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Question for this article:

Can peace be guaranteed through nonviolent means?

Are we making progress against racism?

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Consider the hundreds of devout Christians who attend prayer services, bible studies and Catholic masses at the Pentagon, and then go about the big business of mass murder. Or the thousands of devout Christians who attend church each Sunday in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and then spend the rest of the week devoutly building nuclear weapons. Think of the Jesuits of Baltimore who hold an annual Mass for War, who process their one hundred ROTC graduates up the main aisle at graduation mass to profess their Army Oath to Kill to the Blessed Sacrament, just as the Nazis did long ago. . .

We are all addicted to violence in one form or another. We have all surrendered to sociopathic killing in one form or another. We have refused the wisdom, the divine call, the spiritual heights of universal, loving nonviolence. But that is the only option ahead of us.

The real challenge before us, I submit, was laid down long ago by our national teacher, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He invites each one of us to undergo the journey he went through toward active nonviolence. We have to renounce the ancient stupidity of “an eye for an eye thinking” (which Jesus outlawed when he commanded in the Sermon on the Mount, “But I say, offer no violent resistance to one who does evil”) and take up where Gandhi left off in his pursuit of truth and nonviolence. . .

In August, I’ll be hosting a national conference on nonviolence at the Hilton Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s sold out, but we will broadcast the entire historic two day event live on line for free, and I hope tens of thousands will watch it live (you can see it at: We will have some of the nation’s greatest visionaries of nonviolence there, beginning with Dr. King’s friend Rev. James Lawson, whom King called the world’s greatest theoretician of nonviolence.

We will also broadcast live on line our peace vigils in Los Alamos, New Mexico, marking the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6th and 9th. (See: for details).

More, we are calling for a week of nonviolent action across the United States, from September 20th to 28th, as we mark International Peace Day, Sept. 21st. Last year, Campaign Nonviolence organized over 250 demonstrations against war, poverty, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, and for Dr. King’s vision of a new culture of peace and nonviolence, in all fifty states. We hope to double that number this September, and we need more people to step up to the plate and get involved. That means, organizing a march, a rally, a prayer service or a lobby effort in your local community. If you are looking for some way to get involved, consider yourself invited. Here’s a concrete step you can take, in solidarity with thousands of others across the nation. As we take to the streets together, we will know that we are not alone. . .

Mother Jones was right. Don’t just mourn. Organize!

See you in the street!