Transform Now Plowshares: A Trumpet Call to All of Us

by William “Bix” Bichsel

On July 28, 2012, Sr. Megan Rice, shcj, 84yrs, Michael Walli, 64yrs, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59yrs hiked a ridge and cut through four fences to reach the new U.S. storehouse for Highly Enriched Uranium, which is needed for the production of thermonuclear weapons. These weapons, used to threaten other nations, are in violation of the U.S. Principles of Nuremberg (U.S. Law), in which citizens are directed to resist illegal acts by their government. The refurbishing of the weapons is in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which the U.S. pledges complete nuclear disarmament.

(l to r): Michael, Megan and Greg (art by The Washington Post)

(l to r): Michael, Megan and Greg (art by The Washington Post)

They name their lawful act of resistance: Transform Now Plowshares Action, following Isaiah’s injunction, “They shall hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” With faith in following the non-violent Jesus, they poured their blood, painted words of justice and hammered on the walls of the HEU Building.

They were convicted of sabotage (threatening the security of the U.S.) and depredation of government property and were sent directly into jail as terrorists to await sentencing (which took place ten months later). They were charged with $52,000 of damage- mostly to the fences. One of the attendees of the trial drew a parallel, “Would anyone let fences surrounding Auschwitz stand? Much less should we let fences guarding nuclear weapons stand.”

Sr. Megan Rice was given 35 months imprisonment, both Michael and Greg were given 62 months. Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa, editors of the “Nuclear Resister” stated: “As the Hibakusha (survivors of the terror from Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings)”; so do Megan, Michael and Greg offer their lives to prevent similar massacre.

Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, stated: “Though their bodies are in prison, their voices are free reminding us that the central issue of this action and trial have not been resolved- as long as the government continues to produce thermal nuclear weapons of mass-destruction in Oak Ridge or anywhere, people are required to resist.”

Lynne Greenwald of the ‘Disarm Now Plowshares Action’ (DNPA) at Bangor in 2009 reminds us that the day of this sentencing is the same day, Feb 18th, as the sentencing to death (by guillotine) of Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and six other members of the White Rose Resistance to Nazi Germany’s fascism in 1943 and also the day in 1985 when Lynne and six activists carrying white roses sat on the tracks leading into the Bangor Naval Base blocking the white train carrying nuclear weapons into the base.

Sr. Megan Rice who has spent her life living among and teaching the urban poor of our country and Western Africa, while also resisting U.S. militarism for the last 25 years, when questioned by Judge Thapars: “Do you have any regrets?”, responded: “Only for not starting 70 years earlier.”

` Greg Boertje-Obed has been most faithful in his quiet powerful witness against all weapons through many selfless actions of resistance. He has been separated from his wife and daughter for ten years.

Michael Walli is a Vietnam Vet who received a bronze star. After the service his life changed to caring for the homeless and marginalized people in a number of our cities. At the sentencing he asked Judge Thapar to look at his face and see the face of the future~ the many who will follow in resistance.

Fr. Steve Kelly, sj, another member DNPA (Nov-2009) said that the judge’s sentence gave great help to the U.S. in its efforts to categorize peace activists and whistle blowers as terrorists. The guilty verdict is meant to instill fear in the citizens. In contrast to this, Jesus says to Megan, Michael, and Greg: “Be Not Afraid.”

Fr. Bill Bichsel, sj, also of DNPA says that the possibility of redress of grievances, from any of our branches of government, is blocked. The heroic action and subsequent sentencing of the three is a trumpet call to all of us.

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More News (from Bix) From Jeju Island

October 3, 2013

Re: News from JeJu

From: Bix

We began the day once again with the 100 deep bows. After that Gilberto and I sat in blocking action at the gate with three nuns, our deep bow leader, and Iffka, a young, compassionate woman from Berkeley.

As we did the deep bows facing into the yard, huge trucks ready to exit would stop before us and the drivers would rev the motors so the trucks quivered and clanked–much like a bull before its charge. However, the trucks would be forced to turn to another exit. DSC06693-1-640x470

During the two hour blocking action I felt a deep grandfatherly affection for the three young women who are the main organizers. The time at the gates is a time of deep contemplation and prayer as the cement trucks come to enter. By then many police are assembled. The head policeman reads the warning to move. We remain seated there. They carry us, sedan chair style, to the side. Once the squad of trucks is in, the police leave and we return to the middle of the gate. This is repeated 3 or 4 times in the morning.

I felt a deep connection with all there: the nuns, organizers, villagers. This feeling of connection spread to the young policepersons who are held in bondage to this system. I felt a great connection and compassion for the nuns who were carried to the side and circled by the policewomen. I also felt a poignancy and compassion for the policewomen who probably didn’t like what they were doing and probably felt some of the same things the nuns were feeling.

Word has come that a typhoon may hit Jeju tomorrow. What is most striking about this is the fact that the farmers of Jeju also pray for the typhoon to come. The typhoon will rip up their fruit, vegetable, and tangerine crops as well as destroy their green houses where most of the crops are grown. Jeju is a basic agricultural island. Yet farmers will pray for this howling and uprooting force to hit the island because the last time a typhoon hit, it carried away and destroyed a good part of the naval base construction.

gillchun talk sonomaSo deep is the opposition and resentment at the building of the naval base that farmers will suffer the loss of their livelihood with the hope the typhoon will carry away this monster from its peaceful shores.

However, I feel that this spirit of resistance that has been nurtured and grown in this faith filled community has more power than the typhoon or American militarism.

Blessings to All
Bix

Note: Jeju is 16 hours ahead of Northwest time

Bix and Gilberto are to arrive back at the Seattle/Tacoma Airport
Monday Oct 7th at 2:55 PM

Bix and Gilberto on Jeju Island!

Dear Friends,

In March 2012, at our yearly gathering of the Pacific Life Community, Dennis Apel of the Guadalupe Catholic Worker first introduced to PLC that US naval ships/subs were soon to be stationed on Jeju Island.

True to form of all actions and involvements the US is into and doesn’t want the American people to know about, don’t look for too much information about JeJu in the US press. These next two web sites can provide a lot of information most folks have no clue about.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/america-threatens-eastern-china-jeju-island-key-strategic-naval-base-for-americas-asia-pivot/5335532

You can see the photo’s Dennis took of his trip to Jeju on  http://vpan.org/resources/Jeju-Island-of-Peace

Bix has been very focused on wanting to respond to the call of the religious and lay community on Jeju. Daily vigils and resistance actions have been in place for quite some time with the hope that one day the construction will end and this very dangerous American Funded Naval base 300 miles from mainland China will cease to be.

On September 23rd Bix, and Gilberto Perez flew from Seattle to Seoul Korea. They spent one day in Seoul and then directly onto Jeju. They have joined in with the resistance community on Jeju and the following reports give a lively report of his and Gilberto’s activities.

They are due back here in Seattle on the 8th of October. In the meantime the following are some thoughts from Bix and Gilberto.

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 Van-den-berg vigil        September 26, 2013    From Bix

You would see and feel the holiness of this island; after returning from the regular daily practice of 100 bows (stand-kneel-deep bow) in front of a main gate of the construction site–with a view of the great sea beyond the site. The woman who started this deep bowing practice two years ago was there and today she was assisted by Gilberto and I, two Korean Notre Dame Sisters, a young woman from the US and two Korean women from Jeju.  One of the ND Sisters said to me, “Your country has done this to us”!

Very much wish Steve Kelly and Louie Vitale would have been able to make this trip. Their life experience, and ability to absorb and appreciate another culture would be solidarity plus. We have been greatly welcomed by all Jesuits and well provided for and well scheduled.Fr. Kim,S.J. lives on Jeju Island in a small house rented by the Jesuit Order. He lives in community with two other Jesuits; one, Brother Pamk, is in jail for resistance to the naval base; the other, Fr. Lee is presently on trial for resistance activities.  Fr. Kim has been jailed on different occasions for resistance. Jeju resistance and village -building is his assigned apostolate.

We began this day with Eucharist being celebrated at the gate leading into the construction site. We were four priests, five nuns, and four village women.  The village men sat in chairs in front other main gate.JCR_893

The police showed up in droves (high employment). When the time came for the construction trucks to enter the building site, the police surrounded us, asked us to leave, then carried all of us in our chairs to the sideline. Best chair- sedan ride ever. This happened four times. No arrests. Eucharist was being prayed and sung all the while. We all received communion.

 September 27, 2013

We are living in Gangjeong Village here on Jeju Island and the village life is wonderful. Daily Eucharist and rosary is ended with high spirited Korean dance and song. We then have lunch in the community meal long-home. Fr. Kim had arranged for Gilberto and me to attend the ongoing investigative trials of Brother Park, S.J. (who lives in community with Fr. Kim) and Doctor Song who were being held in jail for their resistance work against the naval base.

Signs of community solidarity are clear to see; however, there is division also with some of the islanders. After the court visit Fr. Kim drove us to the hospital to visit a village woman resister who was struck many times by a villager who disagreed with the resistance. Though most of the people of Jeju Island and South Korea don’t want the base, there are those that support it.

This division was made manifest when the coordinator of the community meal hut was brought into the emergency room with multiple facial injuries while we were at the hospital. He had made a remark to a villager opposed to the resistance and the villager struck him in the face many times. Many members of the resistance community showed up and were very vocal in their opposition to the police, who were investigating the victim rather than the perpetrator. Sometime after midnight we left the hospital with Fr. Kim who drove us to our guest house.

1336582897-save-jeju-as-island-of-world-peace--london_1203575 After the 100 bows, Eucharist and rosary, dancing and singing, and lunch in the community meal hut, we traveled to Jeju City to visit Brother Park, S.J. in jail. His spirit is strong and he is very alive and committed to his justice work.

I’m experiencing this time as a real retreat. The oneness of the Eucharist unifying all people in a live background stirs me. The signs of resistance and the dancing and singing give life and vibrancy to the Eucharist. What I’m experiencing is a church alive with a bishop calling for resistance.

 September 29, 2013

Great conversations today with two Korean Jesuit Priest, each named Kim. This is the most alive and vibrant faith community I’ve ever experienced. Daily Eucharist is the foundation of the ongoing acts of resistance which also occur each day. Everyday priests, nuns and villagers sit in chairs blocking the main gate while the sung Eucharist up the road is being broadcast. After the Mass and rosary there is very vibrant Korean dance that knocks your socks off and fills you with joy. After this there is lively song. This is followed by Korean lunch—kim chi style- that is held

in the community meal house that has free and open meals every day. The atmosphere is light and alive with communication. At 7AM the day starts with a village lady who leads us in 100 deep down on your knees bows in front of the gate. Different blocking actions take place in the afternoon. Each order of nuns sends two nuns every week to vigil and resist. They stay in a guest house that is rented by the diocese. Four Jesuits are assigned to full time resistance work. The bishop is fabulous and calls villagers to resistance as well as assigning priests to work for peace.

At 4pm the bishop of Jeju will lead the Eucharist gathering in front of the main gate where Gilberto and I with other priests and nuns will block the gate. It is not yet clear to us but we are talking about an action on St.Francis day to call Pope Francis to join the opposition and resistance to the naval base at Jeju Island. However, today the regular resistance community expects hundreds to show up. Gilberto and I will be blocking all day.

More later—love Bix

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From: Gilbeto Perez        September 29, 2013   

Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo,

We bow hundred times in front of naval construction site with nuns and Fr. Bix. Very tough nuns, just like Sr. Junsan. Oliver Stone was here about a month ago and also prayed and bowed at local sacred location where US and Korea police massacred over 30,000 left wing peoples, mostly farmers and whole families, burned villages just like Vietnam..began 1946 ended in 1948. US called Jeju a “Red” island during this period. After freedom from Japanese, Koreans did not want another colonizer, therefore the arguments and massacre.jeju4

We all continue to pray. Yesterday and today over 75 Catholic nuns, 45 Jesuits and even the Bishop performed Sunday Mass. With over 300 local peoples and big dinner party at the village center. Reminds me of Cuba and Mexico where everyone in town is invited. Many of the nuns, priests and Bishop came from Seoul.Yes, Koreans are very passionate about peace and prayers, many studied in Berkeley, Boston and even the Philippines too. Two young Americans are here but not able to block gate, as they want to return to Korea. We sit in front of gate while Mass is said and police carry us off to let trucks and cars on/off the base and then we just return again. Police are thus far been pretty gentle. They remove us and lots of filming while this is performed, about five time each day.

Fr. Bix becomes like a young teenager when he is resisting the empire and very funny and happy with all…A baby Buddha.

Being near ocean means fresh fish and wonderful vegetables, cheese…No cows! Yes, US has taken the most beautiful location for the naval nuclear site, with approval of government (Eminent Domain) and destroyed the coral reed too.

So much to say about the Koreans, very respectful to elders and all participate in actions with joy and dancing after mass…I like the dancing in front of the gate the best.

Gassho, love to all and much peace, – Br. Gilberto

Bix reflects on the April 14th youth vigil at Bangor

In conversations with Ciaron O’Reilly, Pat Gaffney and Bruce Kent in London; Gerry Hughes, S.J. in Oxford; Brian Larken, Jane Talents, Rev. Allan McDonald, and Cardinal Keith O’Brian in Scotland, it was strongly agreed that our different countries must support each other and be in solidarity with those carrying out actions and events to abolish nuclear weapons and the Trident delivery system.

On April 14th young people from the Tacoma area came together to carry out a planned resistance event at the gates of the Trident Sub Base at Bangor, Washington at the same time that a large blockade action at the gates of the Trident Sub Base in Faslane, Scotland was taking place.

Prior to the event at Bangor there was a planned video/Skype hook-up at Jeans House of Prayer at the Tacoma Catholic Worker; supporters of the blockade in Faslane connected with the youth of our community who were on their way to the resistance event at Bangor, and a sense of solidarity evolved. At 11:45 AM (PST) the youth of Tacoma (expressing reasons why they oppose nuclear weapons) were in touch with a room full of Scottish resisters who cheered and waved signs. Some of the youth present were Will Bently, Elias Rodkey, Rosie James, Claire Bently, Amanda Brown, and Kaitlin Martin. They identified themselves and expressed why they were there. Sam Colella led us in singing “Yellow Submarine” but with a modified version – changing yellow to Trident.

We concluded our Skype connection and solidarity wishes with singing together “We Shall Overcome”. After this we car pooled to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, where we gathered in preparation for our walk to the Bangor gate. We were welcomed by Connie Mears then Will Bently called us into a circle and thanked all for coming. Brenda Gallo and Eli Rodkey expressed why they had come. There were words of support for what the youth were doing from Mary Gallagher, Ruth Gallo, and Niko Colella. After this all assembled recited the pledge of non-violence. The group was fortunate to have Mira Leslie and Mary Glystein as peace-keepers who gave instructions on how the group would safely proceed to the main gate of the Bangor Base; following this Peter Roderick led the procession with drumming.

On arriving near the entrance to the Bangor Base, we assembled in the usual place of demonstration which is bordered by a white line restricting entrance onto the state highway and a blue line restricting entrance onto federal property. No sooner had we assembled than a group of 5 marines with a guard dog assembled on the other side of the blue line. Will Bently welcomed everyone then he, Gabe and Quinn spoke of why they were there. We were led in song by Kaitlin Martin and George Rodkey.

Then all of the assembled greeted the marine guards with waves and words which said we were brothers and sisters and not enemies; mindful that we wanted the best for them while we work for a nuclear weapon free world. This was followed by a communal blessing of the guards led by Gerri Jones. Our gathering was ended by a reading from Martin Luther King by Amanda Brown. This reading stated that non-violent action first affects the participant and does not immediately have an effect on violence inherent in nuclear weapons.

We were a vulnerable, rag-tag, insignificant group gathered in a “cloud of unknowing” of the deep, devastating forces of violence that protects nuclear weapons. Though most had a general idea of why we were there, for many the reason of our gathering was a bit fuzzy and, for some, confusing.

We were like long-legged, spindly spiders trying to avoid a puddle. We were the stuff out of which an amused and joyful God writes on our fleshy hearts about the Kingdom (Kindom) coming.

 

 

Good Friday – Walking the Way of the Cross to Lockheed Martin

Dear Friends,

A group of the faithful carried the cross together, honoring the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus, on Good Friday.

They gathered – Catholic Workers, nuns, priests and lay people – and walked to the Lockheed Martin facility in Sunnyvale, California where day in and day out people go to work building the Trident II D-5 missiles that are deployed on our nation’s ballistic missile submarines.

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Each of those Trident missiles (and each submarine carries 24) is fitted with four (and as many as eight) thermonuclear warheads, each of which is many times more destructive than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.  These submarines patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on alert, prepared to launch their horrific weapons, threatening humanity with omnicide.

Such a thing is quite simply an abomination before God.

Scores of workers stream in and out of the Lockheed Martin facility every workday and, if the employee roster mirrors the societal demographic, a large percentage of those workers call themselves Christians. How then, can one who calls oneself “Christian” do the work of building something that is so un-Godly?  How can one build weapons that are, by their very nature, designed to incinerate tens of thousands or possibly millions – and that is with just a single warhead.

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Are we truly listening to The Story on Good Friday (or on any other day for that matter) when, instead of turning away from violence, from hatred, from fear, and turning toward LOVE, we continue to build the machinery of empire today.  How different is today’s empire from that which was threatened by Jesus roughly two thousand years ago?

On this Good Friday those who walked to Lockheed Martin stood vigil with signs and banners carrying messages of love and peace and calling on all good people to stop making war.  Some of those present went into the roadway carrying that cross and blocking the entrance to Lockheed Martin in an act of nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons and war-making.  They were arrested by the Sunnyvale Police.  This was their sacrifice in the name of Jesus, who sacrificed for us in the name of a loving God who wants us to live together in Peace.

Those arrested for their witness were Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, Larry Purcell, Mary Jane Parrine, Louis Vitale, and Ed Ehmke.  Steve was held on a warrant, and Larry didn’t sign the citation.  Those released have a court date May 13th.  Steve and Larry will be in court Wednesday, April 3rd in the afternoon.

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Click here to view photos of the Good Friday vigil and action at Lockheed Martin. 

My wish today is that each of us was able to look Jesus in the eyes as he hung high up on that cross when he was crucified, and that we may connect in such a way that we find it in our hearts to carry that cross as we are able – whether a few inches or a few miles – so that others may live… so that we may all learn to live together as brothers and sisters one day as is God’s intention.

With great thanks this day to all who sacrifice so that others may live.

Peace,

Leonard

Notes from the journey #2

Editor’s Note: This is an introduction (by Joe Power-Drutis) to what we hope will be a series of reflections by our dear Bix following on Bix’s and Joe’s trip to Oslo and many other European destinations in December 2012. 

Technically speaking he lives at one of the Tacoma Catholic Worker
houses, Jean’s House of Prayer. In actuality, he lives in a 10’ x 12’
room, on the first floor of this rather incredible home. When entering
his space one is struck by an immaculately made up, single bed in the
center of the room (no doubt early Jesuit training). After that, the
décor takes a steep dive. Boxes, books, papers, photographs, and
random articles of clothing are strewn haphazardly in interesting
patterns on the bed, desk, and book shelves. Only those who come to
know the room’s occupant are likely to recognize this as “command
central” where so many of us bring our dreams and share our struggles.

A few days ago, I was about to leave this room after receiving
marching orders. Looking up from his desk, Bix squinted through well
worn glasses and said, “You know, I believe we can get rid of these
nuclear weapons.” If he had made that statement 45 years ago I would
have jumped up saying, “All right, I’m all over that, let’s get to
it!” He was bigger than life and exuded utter confidence in all he
undertook. Who didn’t get behind a person of such assurance? At nearly
85 his physical abilities, and mine, lead me to consider somewhat less
lofty goals. I wanted to say, “There is medication that can help with
such ideations;” or, “How about right after lunch.” However; I decided
sarcasm would not be well received; anyway, the look in his eyes
showed he absolutely believed in the validity of his statement.

This morning in that twilight world, somewhere between dreams and
wakefulness, the thought came to me, “if you had faith the size of a
mustard seed.” Perhaps we have to become very small before we can
transform the impossible into the possible. Look for yourselves, Matt
13:31 & 17:20, Mark 4:31 and Luke 13:19; is there something there?
When speaking of abolishing nuclear weapons, Bix did not use the term
“hope;” he said he “believes” that getting rid of nuclear weapons is
possible!

A number of people have asked when I would complete the story of our
recent trip to Sweden, Norway, and the UK. I generally replied, “Very
soon,” instead of the more honest answer, “I have no idea how to bring
completion to this story!” Finally, I told Bix that this doesn’t seem
to be a story of exactly who we met or what was said. Although these
things important, something more holistic is at play here and I am not
the one with the knowledge or spirit to express it. Bix said he would
take this on and I let go.

His writing about our journey to Europe and conversations with peace
activists there is almost finished. Over the next few weeks I will
post these writings in bite-sized pieces as he wishes. In the
meantime, here are some words from Bix’s heart:

“We return from our trip bolstered by the motivating truth that most
people of the world do not want to kill each other. The vast majority
of people of the world want their children to be able to live life to
its fullest potential. No matter what the obstacles to human
interaction, the human connection of all people runs as a conduit of
energy in a subterranean layer of our earth.”

“It was heartening to see that the ecumenical voice of the Church of
Scotland, Baptists, Catholics, and Quakers has been a strong moving
force in opposing the Trident Nuclear Submarine system. Today, 75% of
the people of Scotland oppose this system of mass destruction. I was
inspired to bring this spirit of resistance back to our Pacific
Northwest. We have to realize that we are all part of a global
community. The dream we share in common – the need for a world without
nuclear weapons – can continue to grow and flow back and forth across
the water that separates us.”

Bix Reflects on COMMUNITY

Friends,

Here is video from the November 10, 2011 prayer sendoff for Bix before he re-entered prison for his ongoing resistance to war-making and nuclear weapons. In this clip, Bix reflects on the rich blessings and strengths of COMMUNITY.

Peace,

Leonard

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