A Tribute to Sr. Anne Montgomery
By Michele Naar-Obed
It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote that I didn’t believe in heroes. Heroes, like saints, have been sanitized, whitewashed, sensationalized and put up on some unattainable pedestal where the rest of us are not supposed to go. So I guess it’s those kinds of heroes and saints that I can’t believe in.
Anne is both a hero and a saint. It was obvious that she lived her life according to the will of God. She lived, breathed and acted out of faith and with the belief that all life is sacred and filled with the Divine. That’s how I knew and remember Anne. She never judged you for what you did or didn’t do. She only encouraged you to be and do all that you could in accordance with God’s will for you.,
Anne was part of the support team for my first plowshare action. Her wisdom and surety that these actions were God inspired and Spirit led was the best support in the world. One never knows how the beast will react when exposed and confronted so the support that I got from Anne was to lean on God and the Holy Spirit to know how to carry on.
Later on Anne joined Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). I was confused because I couldn’t see the connection to the call to do plowshare actions. She came to Jonah House to talk about CPT and to articulate how it would impact both the empire and the beloved community. The best thing it had going for it that I could see at the time was that it (CPT) too, was God inspired and Spirit led and Anne believed in it.
Like plowshare actions, CPT actions and attempts seemed insignificant and meaningless against the monsters of war, greed, corruption, and all the other markings of the beast. But Anne persevered dedicating the next several years of her life to living in war zones, standing and walking forward with the victims and bolstering those victims up into nonviolent warriors. More so, she opened the door for us inheritors of the empire to learn from those victims how to be nonviolent warriors in this new beloved community that is God inspired and Spirit led.
In 2002, after participating in a second plowshare action, I too heard the call to join CPT in part because of Anne’s example. I went to Iraq just months before the 2003 attack and invasion. It was a political and military mess of a nation but underneath all that mess were the lives that were still filled with the Light of the Divine that Anne and other CPTers held on to, even to the point of watching the Light extinguish.
Our team, of which Anne was a part, drove down to Basra from Baghdad to visit a hospital where the cancer rate in children had increased by 300% due to the use of depleted uranium weapons in the 1991 Gulf war. Anne had been at this hospital many times. A doctor began to explain probably for the hundredth time what was happening to her patients and she began to lose it. Out of frustration and sorrow she started yelling at us that we weren’t doing enough to stop the beast of war. She looked at Anne and said, “You’ve been here many times and nothing changes. You are not doing enough”. I started to say something and Anne motioned for me to be quiet. Later I explained to Anne that I wanted to tell the doctor that people were demonstrating, going to jail and offering their lives and freedom trying to resist war and all its preparations. I wanted to tell the doctor that Anne was one of those people, that she’s hammered on nose cones and nuclear submarines. What more did you want her to do, I wanted to say to that doctor. None of that mattered to Anne. She knew the doctor needed to vent and she knew the doctor didn’t need to know about all our attempts at resisting war. God knew and that was enough.
Driving back to Baghdad, one of the vehicles that I was in blew a tire, flipped many times and slid upside down into the desert sand. The person sitting next to me had his skull crushed and was found yards from the vehicle. The rest of us were injured to varying degrees. We were piled in another vehicle and driven back to Basra to the hospital. I had a broken nose and some contusions. Anne held me and another man that had broken vertebrae. I remember her saying that I would be okay because I was stubborn and had a hard head. She was right.
Many people wanted me to go home after that accident. Anne encouraged me to follow God and the Holy Spirit. I stayed and over these years have spent about 3 years total in Iraq with CPT. Much of that time has been spent in the Kurdish north of Iraq with villagers who are caught in the web of political and military war. I tried to practice what Anne taught me.
Just before Anne’s death and within months of her release from prison for her last plowshare action, my husband Greg, Sr. Megan Rice and Michael Walli enacted the “Transform Now” plowshare at the Y-12 uranium storage and enrichment plant in Oakridge Tennessee. It was an action that has deeply touched the empire’s nerve of corruption and the beast is lashing out.
I support that action and all the actions that have gone before it and all those that will come after it because they are God inspired and Spirit led. I am trying to practice being the kind of support that Anne taught me. I believe, really believe, that Anne, together with Elmer and Phil, are with it on a different dimension, closer to God and the Holy Spirit. Anne is now part of the communion of Saints and cloud of witnesses who without judgement or ego will help those of us left on earth to carry out God’s hope and will for us as God’s people.
Thank you Anne for all that you have done and all that you will continue to do from your new “home”. I’ll miss you in this home and hope that when my time comes, you will invite me to your new place. Do you have coffee and bagels?!
Editor’s Note: Transform Now Plowshares now has a blog at http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/