Category Archives: Non-violence

A Couple of Brief Thoughts on Means and Ends

It seems like a million years ago, but I clearly recall a conversation among members of the Alliance for Non-violent Action around non-violence and choice.   At the time there were sit-ins and blockades of the Morgentaler clinic.   There were some with ANVA who took the position that because the tactics were similar to those used by ANVA and others in the anti-war/anti-nuke movements they were part of our movement.   Others were clear that it wasn’t just the tactics but the cause that needed to be considered.    It wasn’t just the tactics that determined the nature of the movement but a combination of aims and tactics—non-violence can easily be used to promote a far less just, open and compassionate society.

I also remember a conversation in regards to disruption of events.   For some it was a way to speak truth to power.   For others, such efforts contain echoes of jack boots and were a statement of an unwillingness to accept the value of free speak.   For these later folks our tactics should be ones we’d be willing to tolerate against us—if we would feel intimidated by outbursts of anger and efforts to silence our speech, we shouldn’t use such tactics against others.

One of the major reasons I am politically pessimistic is that some movements I’d like to support are using tactics I oppose and some movements I oppose are using tactics I have long advocated.   I am longing to see a unity of means and ends.



FIRST LESSON: 2 Maccabees 1: 1 – 6

The Jews in Jerusalem and those in the land
of Judea, to their Jewish kindred in Egypt,
greetings and true peace. May God do good
to you, and may he remember his covenant
with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, his
faithful servants. May he give you all a heart
to worship him and to do his will with a
strong heart and a willing spirit. May he open
your heart to his law and his commandments,
and may he bring peace. May he hear your
prayers and be reconciled to you, and may he
not forsake you in time of evil. We are now
praying for you here.


O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall
prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy
walls: and plenteousness within the palaces.
Alleluia, alleluia. Praise the Lord, O
Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion. Alleluia.

In Jewry is God know: his Name is great in
Israel. At Salem is his tabernacles: and his
dwelling in Sion. There brake he the arrows
of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the

GOSPEL: John 20: 19 – 23

When it was evening on that day, the first day
of the week, and the doors of the house
where the disciples had met were locked for
fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among
them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he
said this, he showed them his hands and his
side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they
saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace
be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I
send you.” When he had said this, he
breathed on them and said to them, “Receive
the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins
of any, they are retained.”


On a beautiful summer day in a peaceful
city war seems far away. Unless we are
refugees from places of conflict, are a veteran
or currently serving military or have such
people among our friends and our families, it
is hard even for war to seem real. We have to
work hard to make war alive in Toronto as it
is something that happens elsewhere. And yet
we are at war. Canadian military units are
serving overseas in places of conflict;
individual Canadians are volunteering for
service in the military of countries such as the
U.S. and Israel; Canadians are going to other
lands to take part in religious wars. No
matter how nice it is in our community today,
no matter how comfortable we may feel in
our lives, there are wars being fought and
people are dying and our friends and
neighbours may be involved. Peace is in our
world, but it isn’t present everywhere.
War isn’t what Jesus came to live among
us for. War isn’t what Christians are called
to be—we are called to peacemakers, not
warriors. And, while throughout our history
Christians have taken part in wars, we have
never forgotten that Christ came to bring
peace. We hear it in the scriptures and we
read the pronouncements from church
leaders. We have fallen far from the central
teachings of our faith if we don’t embrace this
essential reality that peace is what we are
called to witness for.


There are times when I wonder how hard
it must be to be part of a peaceful witness.
All we have to do is not pick up a weapon or
strike out at someone. Just like the best way
to address hunger is to feed people and the
best way to address homelessness is to
provide someone a place to live, the best way
to build a peaceful world is to not add to the
violence in it.


Christians in the world need to become
more consistent in our witness for peace.
Our churches can’t send out the contradictory
messages of calling for an end to war and
providing chaplains to the military. God isn’t
on the side of those with the most battalions;
God is on the side of everyone. Our peace activists                                                  have to stop sending out contradictory messages.                                                     We can’t call for an end to war while doing apologetics for one
side or the other in a conflict. God isn’t on
the side of those most in harmony with our
ideas; God is on the side of everyone.

There are among us the unseen victims of
war—from soldiers with post-traumatic stress
syndrome to people who have seen their
entire family killed by a missile. There are
victims of war around the planet, from
Christians crucified by ISIS in their effort to
re-establish the caliphate to those killed when
their shelter was bombed to those whose
aircraft was shot down to the children who
are forever scarred by what they have
experienced while hiding in a bomb shelter.
And, as Dwight Eisenhower stated so clearly:
“Every gun that is made, every warship
launched, every rocket fired signifies in the
final sense, a theft from those who hunger
and are not fed, those who are cold and are
not clothed. This world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the
sweat of its laborers, the genius of its
scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not
a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the
clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a
cross of iron.”

War is evil. We are called to do good and
to overcome evil. As people that pay for war,
as people who participate in many ways in
supporting movements and institutions that
could be working for peace, as people who are
called to be living examples of the shalom
kingdom, we need to do better. We may not
know how to achieve peace on earth but we
do need to start somewhere. We need to find
ways to avoid violence in our own lives, we
need to find ways to not be so complicit in
violence in our community and around the
world. From praying for peace to being a
voice against war to being a more gentle
presence in a harsh world, we can do things in
our lives that will change the world. Let us
do so; lives depend on it.


Non-violence philosophy for animal activism

Multi-faith centre, 569 Spadina Ave. University of Toronto,

Koffler Auditorium (1st floor)

Non-violence philosophy for animal activism

Thursday, December 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m.

Multi-faith centre, 569 Spadina Ave.

University of Toronto, Koffler Auditorium (1st floor)

Thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts on non-violence.    I apologise in advance for depending on notes and not being as energetic as I might be.  I’m recovering from the flu and my thoughts seem to be ever more scattered than normal.

I’ll start by suggesting some of the best counter arguments to my approach to social change can be found in Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology.   There are other works available, both in print and on-line, that critically examine non-violence but I find that Churchill raises concerns I hadn’t thought of and he approaches the whole subject in clear and direct language.    If you are seriously considering embracing non-violence either in terms of strategy and tactics or as a life-long set of guiding moral principals do so consciously.   One of the core Gandhian principal is that we are experimenting with the truth—the possibility exists we don’t have it and non-violence does need to be tested both in theory and in practice.

I want people to consider three expressions of non-violence—non-violence to one’s self; non-violence to one’s cause; and non-violence as a movement in and of itself.     I may not formally touch on these ideas this evening, but think about them.   Your wellbeing is essential to the movements you are a part of; the movements you are a part of are essential to the world.

There have been a number of efforts to summarise non-violence, but I find that Ghandi’s and King’s still have the most impact:

Ghandi’s Principals of Non-violence

–          All life is one.

–          We each have a piece of the truth and the un-truth.

–          Human beings are more than the evil they sometimes commit.

–          The means must be consistent with the ends.

–          We are called to celebrate both our differences and our fundamental unity with others.

–          We reaffirm our unity with others when we transform “us” versus “them” thinking and doing.

–          Our oneness calls us to want, and to work for, the well-being of all.

–          The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly free from fear.

Martin Luther King’s Principals of Non-violence:

1)      Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

It is assertive spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

It is always persuading the opponent of the justice of your cause.

2)   Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.

The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.

The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

3)   Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.

Nonviolence holds that evildoers are also victims.

4)   Nonviolence holds that voluntary suffering can educate and transform.

Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.

Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.

Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.

Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.

Suffering can have the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.

5) Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as of the body.

Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.

Nonviolent love is active, not passive.

Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater.

Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.

Love restores community and resists injustice.

Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

6) Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

I see myself as both a Christian and an anarchist and both streams of thought and experience lead me to embrace non-violence.   My anarchist side is primarily influenced by Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid; my faith side primarily influenced by the writings and examples of Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King.

What I find most attractive about non-violence is its immediate practicality.  We respond to the world in the here and now.  We don’t wait for a far off time to attempt to put our ideals into practice; they are important now.    While pushing for an end to segregation, let’s integrate our movement; While pushing for an end to factory farming, let’s have vegetarian/vegan meals together.    While pushing for the legalisation of the contraception, let’s open up a family planning clinic;  While waiting for the abolition of the state, let’s have consensus decision making and radical inclusion in our movements.

Non-violence is very inclusive.   You don’t have to be physically fit; you don’t have to have lengthy training.   Anyone can chose to do less harm in the world and find ways to do so.    Even in the midst of militant campaigns, in the midst of dealing with physical force one can chose not to respond in kind.  Non-violence is not passive; it isn’t cowardly but it is also not just for an elite.    Indeed, looking at the theoreticians and practitioners of successful non-violent movements leaders and theoreticians have been primarily from outsiders and marginalized—women; LGBT communities; people of colour/racialised people; first nations; religious minorities.

Non-violence encourages open and respectful communication and dialogue.   Our opponents are an important part of this dialogue.    We would like them to join us in our struggle for a better world.     This isn’t likely to happen if they are faced with contempt and abuse.   The people who are bringing the pigs to slaughter ultimately see themselves as good people; look at ways to reinforce this.   Conversions do take place.

Non-violence is creative.   It isn’t just occupations or blockades; in many ways it is expressed best as performance art.    From applying for permits to levitate the pentagon to taking a pinch of salt from the sea to climbing over a wall at a shipyard to providing free vegetarian meals to those at or near a slaughterhouse, non-violence looks at ways both legal and illegal to point out alternatives that help build a better world.

Non-violence is both stubborn and flexible in its expression.   To achieve social transformation, one must be persistent.  Change takes time.  But how you achieve isn’t determined or dependent on a one time/one way expression.

My embrace of non-violence wasn’t easy.  When I began my activism the Black Panthers, Weather Underground, Red Brigades, FLQ and other advocates of violence and armed self defence were among my heroes.    I greatly admired the work of Martin Luther King but there was a romance around urban guerrillas that was attractive.    There was resonance in Mikhail Bakunin’s statement “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”   Armed revolution leading to the establishment of a radical new social order was seen as possible around the world.

But there were other images too—the young people painting flowers on the sides of tanks during the putdown of the Prague spring in Czechoslovakia; the young man putting flowers in the barrels of guns of the military surrounding the pentagon; a young girl crying because napalm was etching into her flesh.   There were courageous people in the world opposing violence with love and thoughtless violence hurts innocent people.    And there were people coming together from radical opposing sides finding common ground—veterans coming back from Vietnam opposing war ever more fervently than those that were jailed or went into exile to avoid serving.

And while some struggles were being played out in the public sphere, revolution was also happening in quiet ways.  In 1969 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to permit distribution of information about contraception—after a  many decades long struggle which including lobbying, defiance of the law and a sustained commitment to making lives better in the here and now, not after the revolution.   Our world had changed, not through violence but through persistence compassion.

The final conversion to non-violence came from working with those involved with radical movements for social transformation.   Trainers from the Movement for A New Society brought ideas such as consensus decision making, brainstorming and other ideas of community based non-violent direct action forward—ideas now taken for granted; Grindstone Co-operative provided training and retreats to explore radical organisational forms; and those involved in the early days of Alliance for Non-Violent Action (particularly Ken Hancock) looked at ways of exploring non-violence in efforts ranging from the conversion of Litton Industries from military to peaceful production to gay rights.

I became convinced in the value of non-violence first because it worked.   While people were blowing up mailboxes in support of a nationalist struggle, the feminist world was transforming the way we lived our lives.   Those involved in sustained non-violence were able to set down roots, reach out across differences and show by example the type of world they wished to create—the most radical form of propaganda by deed.

This was also the period when a real transformation of our approach to the world around us began.   The first Earth Day was human centric but it arose from a desire to do less harm to the world around us; it was only after that that I noticed something odd happening in small ways and they growing.   It became common-place to have vegetarian food at potlucks—again something just taken for granted now; we began to care for nature less to preserve it for future exploitation than because it was more readily apparent that our world has value in and of itself.    We began talking less of humane treatment of animals than of animal rights—this transformation started because people engaged in the hard work of doing research, communicating and sharing ideas, persistently asking for vegetarian and then vegan meal options at progressive events.    We are far from the end of this struggle but in 1970 it would not have been expected for main stream media to run a documentary on pig farming or run editorials and op-ed pieces on the conditions faced by factory farmed animals if it wasn’t for the decades long non-violent movement that brought vegetarianism and animal rights from the fringes to main stream.

I am not on the front lines anymore; most of my work involves co-operatives and non-profits and far too much sitting.    These are third way experiments—neither corporate or state—in addressing shared needs and desires.    But through them I get to learn from people in Ghana and Haiti, from the Philippines and Lithuania, who are experimenting with similar structures to meet the needs of struggling communities.   Each new housing co-op; each successful micro-financing initiative; is in itself an experiment in non-violence—the structures aren’t perfect because humans are involved—but they bring people from diverse backgrounds and experiences together to jointly solve problems.

Some suggested print resources:

Mahatma Gandhi:   Hind swarag and other writings

Christopher Key Chapple:   Nonviolence to animals, earth, and self in Asia                       traditions

Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard, eds.:  A call to conscience : the landmark speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Leo Tolstoy:  The Kingdom of God is Within You

Some suggested on-line resources:

Training for Change:

Ruckus Society:

Waging Nonviolence:


NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON: Feast of the Holy Innocents

(celebrated instead of either the First Sunday after Christmas
or the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ)
11:00 a.m., January 1, 2012
St. Andrew’s Old Roman Catholic Church
138 Pears Ave. Meeting Room
Toronto, Ontario


Revelation 14: 1 – 5

I saw, and, behold, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.  These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.


Matthew 2: 13b – 18

The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:  And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son. “

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. “


Not growing up in the Catholic world, I was unaware of the calendar of feast days. I was not exposed, during my youth, to the ongoing challenge of seasonally thinking in different ways that God interacted with humanity. I learned about feast days and related spiritual disciplines from people active in the peace movement and primarily from individuals such as Tom Joyce, Len Desroches and Joe Mihavec who were part of, or supporters of, the Cruise Missile Conversion Project. In particular, I learned about the Feast of the Holy Innocents which was chosen as a day of prayer, reflection and civil disobedience at the gates of Litton Industries. Litton Industries, on City View Drive in northwest Toronto, was in the 1970s and 1980s a focus of major protests of the production of the guidance system of the air launched cruise missile. The Cruise Missile Conversion Project wanted Litton Industries to be converted to the production of civilian goods.

Those that chose the Feast of the Holy Innocents as a day of presence at Litton did so because in the preparation of the tools of modern warfare an echo of the actions of Herod was seen. Just as Herod caused the slaughter of children because he was afraid of what the future might bring as a result of the birth of Jesus, our modern world prepared for and participated in the slaughter of innocents due to fear and the desire for power. Being silent when weapons of mass destruction are developed and used makes us complicit what happens around the world when the innocents and powerless of the world have their lives woven into the power struggles of the mighty. Being at the gates of Litton was a time to examine ourselves as people living in a world that does not value children, as living in a world where families have to flee as refugees, a world in which violence is justifiable tool to achieve a political end.

Being at the gates of Litton was a statement that being people of faith who remember with shame and horror the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem we are called to build up a world in which such evil is not repeated, whether in the small scale of our homes or where war is being fought around the world.

We hear in the Gospel what can happen when a political leader, with little restraint on their power, is frightened. They can lash out blindly, sweeping into the lives of innocents with violence. Herod was afraid of what a political messiah could do and he tried to kill everyone who could possibly grow up to be the messiah. His motivations could even been positive. A political messiah, a claimant to the Jewish throne, could cause the Romans to take over the last remains of Jewish independence and slaughter everyone who they saw as connected to the Messiah. A messiah, in the apocalyptic times of 2,000 years ago, could threaten the balance that kept the Jewish faith alive in the centuries since the end of the Babylonian captivity. The magi who had visited the infant Jesus made it clear that someone unique was happening in the world—and Herod chose to deal with it through directed, mass violence. Herod had many options before him, from doing nothing to seeking out the specific infant he saw as a threat to seeking advice and help from the wider community. For what may have been the best of motives, Herod chose to do evil on a wide scale. And he created the first martyrs for our faith, completely innocent by-standers who died because of fear as a result of God being among us.

Jesus did live through this period thanks to Joseph being willing to believe a divine warning. I could easily imagine Joseph not taking this warning seriously—we all get a feeling of something bad about to happens, things that rarely, if ever, occur. A bad dream would not likely to get us to rush to a strange land in order to protect our family.

Jesus and Mary were fortunate that Joseph believed the dream and brought his family to Egypt as refugees. They found a haven in a strange land. Jesus would have had to learn Greek (the dominant language of Egypt since the time of Alexander the Great); if his family settled in Alexandria—the major city of Egypt of the time and a good place for a carpenter to find work—he would have been immersed in centre of learning for Roman empire at the time. The possibility of Jesus to have lived a sheltered life was shattered by living as a refugee in a foreign land. His having been a refugee helps to explain why Jesus was so compassionate to the needs of the outsider.

Something good did come from the actions of Herod—the divine Jesus experienced the results of fear, hatred and oppression in his formative years among us. But just as the best of motives doesn’t excuse an evil action, an unintended good result doesn’t justify evil. We can learn from and overcome harm we have experienced, but we would be healthier if we never experienced violence or tragedy in our lives.

When I was in front of Litton Industries approximately 30 years ago I was seeking a world where compassion was stronger than fear, where love was more omnipresent than hate, where violence was no more because we converted our swords into plows and our spears into pruning hooks—I sought to live in a place and time where the Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat were woven into the fabric of daily life. I saw in the massacre of the innocent children of Bethlehem the same evil that resulted in the bombing of Hiroshima, the realities of Auschwitz, the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacre of Wounded Knee, the burning times of the witch hunts of Europe…the evil that was done by people who believed that the ends justified the means. I also saw, thanks to those who were a part of the Cruise Missile Conversion Project the value in the examples of St. Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Simon Menno, Martin Luther King and others within the broader faith community who believed that the way one lived in the world was the key way of showing the value of the Gospel to the world around us and that if one was going to engage the world in a struggle for the shalom kingdom, a world of peace, justice and compassion, one had to do so in such a way that the means and the ends were one. Otherwise, whatever our motivation, evil will be the outcome of our actions.

We are entering a new year, carrying with us all our memories and experiences. Let us seek to leave it with memories of what we have accomplished during the year, every small step we take towards the building up of God’s kingdom on earth. When we give clothes to those on the streets; when we bring meals to shut-ins; we we move our money from banks to credit unions; when we bite our tongue rather that respond with anger; when we say no to violence in our homes, in our neighbourhoods or around the world; when we find a way to welcome the refugee into our city…in all these ways we are showing that the Kingdom of God is alive and welcoming all those seeking to live more fully in harmony with one another and with all of creation.


There is a wonderful and radical spirit flowing across the world.
People are going into public spaces and demanding that the public good
be the key focus of all economic and political decision making. I am not
a part of any Occupy expression, but have been encouraged that demanding a better world is a contemporary dream.

My only connection to this movement is occasional visits to Occupy Toronto at St. James’ Park. I am fascinated by the decision making process. The patience of general assembly facilitators and spirited input by participants is something I’ve not seen since the early days of the Clamshell Alliance and the large assemblies of the Great Lakes Coalition Against the Cruise/Alliance for Nonviolent Action.

In my visits, though, I feel like an outsider. As I am not staying at the park or flexible enough in time and spirit to go on marches or take part in any concrete tasks (i.e. medical; logistics; food), I feel I shouldn’t participate in discussions or group decision making. I am a visitor to someone else’s movement, not a part of it.

I hope that this movement continues to grow. There are huge social problems, from poverty to war to urban violence to homelessness to alienation from participating in mainstream decision making, that need to confronted. Every moment that a public space is occupied is a moment in which the world as we experience it can be transformed.

The occupy movement is a place for experimentation in effective compassion. How is food shared? How can the scare resources of shelter and privacy be equitably provided? How can the views of different people be brought forward into the decision making process without discouraging those with divergent views from participating? How can this movement link with other struggles without losing its own internal dynamics and logic? It deserves to be supported and lessons learned from it as it evolves.

Different expressions of the occupy movement have different needs. What they have in common is a need for space that can be set aside on an ongoing basis, access to food, shelter, washrooms and communications technology so that they can be sustained on an ongoing basis. In some places a flying squad of supporters would be truly helpful—if they are threatened there should be something in place that will bring the broader community together in support. Spiritual and emotional support is often greatly needed—it is hard to maintain a movement if only the physical needs are met. Logistical support, including food and medical supplies, is always important for an ongoing public movement.

Weaving links to the broader community is essential. If you are a member of a church or a union with a presence near the occupied site urge them to open their doors to the occupy movement. Even a couple of hours a day would be helpful. Whether providing a space for mediation or a hot shower, simple practical expressions of solidarity will help sustain the movement for the long haul.

If you know neighbours that feel intimidated by the people in the Occupied space, bring them by and introduce them. Neighbours need to be acknowledged as stakeholders in the public space; their help will be essential in keeping the space available for the long haul.

The public face of the occupy movement is essential. It is hard but long term movements do need to realize that both sides of a protest are included when the whole world is watching. It is hard to focus public attention on police violence and overreaction if the media can show occupiers using force or violence, throwing things at police or vandalizing property.

I am hoping that as winter approaches safe places are found for those occupying in the northern hemisphere to continue their protest in the public eye. From church sanctuary spaces to city squares surrounded by buildings that block the wind and snow, most urban places have areas where occupiers can continue to gather publically and safely. It will take a long time for the compassion and commitment of the Occupying movements to have a substantial impact on the broader world. But as someone who began participating in social movements while the Vietnam War was still being waged, I know that the world can change.
And social transformation can best come about if movements are supported on a long term basis.

I am on the fringes of the Occupy world. As I reach late middle age I am filled with hope because this is happening around me.

Thoughts after leaving a Facebook group

I’m growing intolerant. I find myself unable to shrug off the world easily. I am specifically angered at this time, and quite frequently at other moments, at comments people post on Facebook pages, newspaper comment sections and other public forums.

As examples:

From a Facebook group dealing with the policing of the Toronto G20 gathering:
“bring rope so you can choke them out cold. then look for his badge”

From a Globe and Mail comments section:

“Accused by who, Left Wing Parasitic Unions? Who cares they did a great job of trying to keep the filth off the streets. Lefties are horrid cretins that lie all the time. Chief Blair we have your back and NO Leftie thug will win. “

It is phenomenally distressing that people feel that violent language and abusive statements are acceptable discourse. Language is not neutral—the way we express ourselves is a mirror of the world we wish to live in. How we express ideas helps shapes the world in which we live.

Perhaps my world is too sheltered but the ever increasing tendency towards violence in language and intolerance of others is intimidating. What have we done in our schools, in our child rearing practices, in our media, in our public discourse to encourage intolerance in personal expression, the glorification of violence, the destruction of empathy in our relationship with others as reflected in comments such as illustrated above?

I found the arguments raised in church circles in the 70s and 80s around inclusive language formative. Working within Quaker and Mennonite circles I learned to think about the way violence in language undercuts efforts to create a more peaceful and egalitarian world. This background has probably made it difficult for me to deal with equanimity the comments, often moderated comments, woven throughout the internet publishing world that are symptoms of problems in the wider world I have been trying to address for generations. You don’t create a peaceful world with violence; you don’t create a world of inclusion through violent language.

Notes for a More Coherent Sermon-Nagasaki Day

11:00 a.m., August 9, 2009
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears
Toronto, Ontario


1st Lesson: 2: 1 – 4

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Gospel: Matthew 5: 1 – 12

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


In ceremonies held on August 6th, to remember the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and today, August 9th, to remember the victims of the bombing of Nagasaki, paper cranes are often shared and on ponds and rivers released. It is a small sign of hope that there will be a time when there will be no more victims of war. Like many ceremonies, there is a concrete beginning to symbols. According to Wikipedia, the use of paper cranes as a symbol of the hope for peace began with a young girl who died of leukaemia a few years after living through the bombing of Hiroshima:

Sadako Sasaki January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) was a Japanese girl who lived near Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Sadako was only two years old on August 6, 1945 when she became a victim of the atomic bomb.
At the time of the explosion Sadako was at home, about 1 mile from ground zero. By November 1954, chicken pox had developed on her neck and behind her ears. Then in January 1955, purple spots had started to form on her legs. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with leukemia, which her mother referred to as “an atom bomb disease.” She was hospitalized on February 21, 1955 and given, at the most, a year to live.
On August 3, 1955, Chizuko Hamamoto – Sadako’s best friend – came to the hospital to visit and cut a golden piece of paper into a square and folded it into a Paper Crane. At first Sadako didn’t understand why Chizuko was doing this but then Chizuko retold… the Japanese saying that one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish. A popular version of the story is that she fell short of her goal of folding 1,000 cranes, having folded only 644 before her death, and that her friends completed the 1,000 and buried them all with her. This comes from the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. An exhibit which appeared in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum stated that by the end of August, 1955, Sadako had achieved her goal and continued to fold more cranes.
Though she had plenty of free time during her days in the hospital to fold the cranes, she lacked paper. She would use medicine wrappings and whatever else she could scrounge up. This included going to other patients’ rooms to ask to use the paper from their get-well presents. Chizuko would bring paper from school for Sadako to use.
During her time in hospital her condition progressively worsened. Around mid-October her left leg became swollen and turned purple. After her family urged her to eat something, Sadako requested tea on rice and remarked “It’s good.” Those were her last words. With her family around her, Sadako died on the morning of October 25, 1955.
After her death, Sadako’s friends and schoolmates published a collection of letters in order to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also called the Genbaku Dome. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads, This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.


Long before Christ walked the earth a time when war would cease was envisioned. In Isaiah we hear of a time when war would cease and the weapons of war would be converted to peaceful usages. People in a time and place of conflict looked forward to a different world, one where violence towards others would cease to exist. Their experiences didn’t lead them to despair for the future of humanity but rather lead them to see that something different was possible, indeed inevitable. Isaiah tells us of a time when peace would reign—those who first heard these words didn’t know when it would occur, but had faith that if they kept alive the possibility of peace it would inevitably occur. And to keep alive the vision of what God intended for us they described a time of peace in language we can still understand—swords into ploughshares; spears into pruning hooks. From peace groups such as Project Ploughshares to a statue in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York, what inspired those thousands of years ago in Israel still has universal meaning today. If we envision something we can make it happen. The paper cranes floating in the pool at the Peace Garden or the statue of a sword being beaten into a ploughshare keeps alive the possibility that dreams will be made real.

Perhaps we keep a dream of peace alive because we are foolish people. We take as a the basic core of our faith a calling to simple acts in what is an all-too-complex world. We are to love our neighbour, we are to feed the stranger, we are to be meek, we are to be strong in the faith, we are to be peacemakers.

Around us are wars and rumours of wars, often justified on religious grounds. And yet around always are those who speak of peace:

Abdul Ghaffar Khan: “The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us: ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures. Belief in God is to love one’s fellow men.'”

Abdu’l-Baha: “I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.”

Fr. Oscar Romero: “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is dynamism. peace is generosity. It is a right and it is a duty.”

If there is violence in the world the violence exists in opposition to divine will. On August 9, 1945 one bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. According to Wikipedia “the death toll from the atomic bombing totalled 73,884, as well as another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.” This was one act in a war that saw some 60 million die. And in every country, from downtown Berlin to Mennonite settlements in Western Canada, voices were raised that violence was wrong. They may have been drowned out by the wars around them, but they kept alive the spirit and vision of a peaceful world.

We here are fortunate. War is something for memories or history books or the news or letters from someone in the midst of armed conflict. We see the harm of war with limited experience of it. The picture of a girl running down the road with napalm etching into her skin; the cloud over Nagasaki; the destruction of the World Trade Centre; the news story of the wedding party accidentally bombed…the world provides us with knowledge and images that brings home what war can do. The paper crane, the sword made into a plough and the Sermon on the Mount provide us with knowledge and images of what peace is and can be.

On this day when people reflect on war and peace, let us go forth from here taking the Sermon on the Mount into every corner of our lives, trusting that the voice of the prophet heard 3,000 years ago and the voice of the peacemaker heard 2,000 years ago and the voice of the child heard just over 50 years ago are still voiced in our actions and our dreams.