|Jim Barnett, OP
||Jane Abell, OP
||Brian Pierce, OP
Fast for Peace September, 2002
In September, 2002, Jim Barnett, OP; Jane Abell, OP; Brian
Pierce, OP and Sheila Provencher took on
a water-only fast in Union Square, NYC. On Saturday, September
28, the four broke their fast on the front lawn of the United
Nations with Carlos
Azpiroz, OP, master
of the Dominican Order. Moved by their public witness,
Dominicans and friends around the world continued this great
universal, interfaith prayer, There Must be Another Way Fast for
Peace and Nonviolence, Now, the four reflect on the experience:
Must Be Another Way
Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert)
It's become almost like a mantra for me, in so many aspects of
my personal spiritual journey as well as the social—sometimes
prophetic—ministry to which all preachers are called. So
many challenges connected with finding the balance of contemplative
and active life—as well as the challenges of living Jesus'
Gospel and the Catholic Social Teaching within our country and
within our Church—force one to seek “another way.”
For me, the idea began in the Friends of God Dominican Ashram
in 2002. It began with frustration and anger over the increasing
preparations in the U.S. for an invasion of Iraq. The frustration
and anger was taken to prayer, to the contemplative roots of our
Dominican preaching. What emerged was that logo, “There Must
Be Another Way,” and a plan of action: to hold a public fast
and prayer for peace and non-violence.
The grace began with the confession that we “embark on
our fast as a way of acknowledging our need for personal and communal
conversion.” We didn't claim to have the answers to the political
tensions and problems, but we had to do something. So we chose
prayer and fasting to seek spiritual clarity and focus, and as
a way toward “another way”: the non-violent path of
peace taught by Jesus Christ. We closed our covenant statement
with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “To prevent the next war,
we have to practice peace today.”
Our prayer and fasting did not prevent the invasion of Iraq nor
the six years of horrendous destruction and death for our family
in Iraq. Nonetheless some personal and communal conversion has taken
place. The logo, “There Must Be Another Way” is a mantra
which must be repeated and repeatedly acted upon in the face of
the numerous abuses in our Church and our country today.
I invite you to join just one such action which has come from
Pax Christi USA. It's a campaign entitled, IT IS TIME TO END THE
TRAIL OF HATRED AND RESENTMENT and it focuses on the present plans
to escalate the war in Afghanistan. It comes from serious dialog
that the leadership of Pax Christi has been able to have with people
in the Obama administration. Their statement claims that
change in U.S. administrations opens the possibility for a new
approach to overcoming terrorism and ensuring peace and security
for all nations. To continue to rely upon failed military strategies
will only lead us further down the “trail of resentment and
hatred.” Let this be the moment when our nation experiences
a “metanoia”—a conversion—when we turn
around, change direction and chart a new course. As church, as
people of faith and good will, we must raise our voices and create
the public groundswell that makes real change possible—here,
in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Palestine/Israel, and everywhere.
The full statement can be found at Pax Christi's website.
you for joining this initiative.
Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert)
The Courage to Choose Another Way
Sheila Provencher Abdallah
God, give us power to rip down prisons.
God, give us power
to lift the people.
God, give us courage to withstand hatred
God, give us courage not
to be bitter.
God, give us power and make us fearless
God, give us power, because
we need it.”
My husband Thaer and I are on a journey this Spring. We’re
visiting some families from Iraq who have resettled in Canada after
more than two years in a Syrian refugee camp. This is a homecoming
for Thaer – he is the human rights activist who first organized
the exodus of these families after they received death threats
in Baghdad. And he has not seen the children since he disappeared
from their midst two years ago, taken from the refugee camp by
secret police, deported back to Iraq.
This song of freedom and resistance from years of apartheid in
South Africa reminds me of his and their amazing courage and response
to oppression in Iraq. Thaer and these families are members
of the Palestinian community in Baghdad – all of them born
in Iraq but never given citizenship, passports, the right to vote
or own property. After the start of the present war, they
were targeted by certain extremist Iraqi militias. Rather
than respond with violence, most decided that flight was the only
option left. Today they are scattered in countless countries
from Canada to Cyprus.
“God give us courage to withstand hatred. God give
us courage not to be bitter.” We all face suffering. Some
face unthinkable hatred and violence. But suffering can
have more than one effect: it can make us hard, bitter, and
revengeful. Or suffering can hollow out in us an empty space
that opens up to compassion.
When my husband describes his experience in political prison – the
water torture, beatings, and starvation – he never expresses
bitterness towards his captors. He always says, “I
think God allowed me to go to prison so I would see all the poor
people there: women and children and people from many countries. I
went to prison so I would feel I must help them, I must end the
prisons and the torture.” He teaches me that there
IS another way.
God give us courage to choose the other way.
Sheila Provencher Abdallah
A Thousand Human Eyes Full of Tears
Jane Abel, OP (Houston)
|"Teach us Lord
how to launch out into the impossible, Because behind the impossible
lies Your grace and Your Presence;
We musn't fall into a vacuum;
The future is an enigma,
Our pathways are made inside the cloud,
But we want to keep giving ourselves because you are waiting
us in the night
With a thousand human eyes full of tears."
Luis Espinal, Bolivian martyr
The above prayer was offered to me by Joan 0' Shanahan,
OP. She sent it before I left for Iraq in the spring of 1999. I
was fortunate to have visited Iraq before the fast. The trip left
an indelible mark on me, especially the children. We visited three
hospitals, one of them in Sadaam City. I will never forget those
visits. When I returned home, 1 began praying to know what to do.
Then Jim Barnett came in to town. He told me about what he and
Brian had been talking about - considering the possibility of a
30 day fast. I knew that I could not refuse. I talked with my Prioress
and two other sisters whom I respected all of whom were supportive.
I mention the trip because the fact that I had been there was a
compelling factor. I said ··Yes".
Arlene Flaherty was a tremendous help in "preparing
the way". The Dominican Sisters in New York were wonderful
in their participation. Other sisters and brothers came from near
and far. From the very beginning it was truly a "Dominican
thing" - an event in which all participated. The flood of
notes and prayers from near and far helped to sustain us along
The close community the four of us formed was crucial. I could
not have lasted without that support.
is a story and picture of a nine-year old boy in Gaza.
I keep his face before me. His eyes are among those "thousand
human eyes full of tears." And - I know that I can do something.
Jane Abel, OP (Houston)
There IS Another
Brian J. Pierce, OP (St. Martin)
Last December, the Iraqi Dominican sisters who live in Rome told
me the following: “In our Maternity hospital in Baghdad – one
of the few still operating in the city – there are frequently
Christian women and Muslim women giving birth to babies side-by-side. We
believe that they are giving birth to the new Iraq. That
is why we stay there – in the midst of the violence – to
be part of the birthing of a new country.”
And I remember thinking, this is true interreligious dialogue,
interreligious praxis at its best. And Jesus’ words
came to mind: “I thank you, Abba, Lord of
heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the
wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to mere children;
yes, Abba, for such was your gracious will” (Lk
Yes, there is another way. It is called building
a new world one act of loving kindness at a time.
1. Franz Jaegerstaetter, beheaded for his refusal
to serve in the Nazi military, was beatified by the Church in 2007. Aware
of the consequences that his conscientious objection might have
on his family, he decided, after much prayer, that a Christian
cannot lie to God “even for the sake of one's family.” He
responded to those who begged him to reconsider: “I cannot
believe that just because one has a wife and children, he [or she]
is free to offend God. Did not Christ himself say 'Whoever loves
father, mother or children more than me is not deserving of my
Yes, there is another way. It is called being
faithful to the gospel.
2. Jean Donovan, lay missionary, martyred in
El Salvador in December 1980, wrote to a friend two weeks before
being killed: “I have decided more than once to leave
El Salvador and I could probably do it if it were not for the children,
the poor victims wounded by this madness. Who will attend them?
What kind of heart would prefer to do the reasonable thing in a
sea of ones own tears and powerlessness? Not my heart, my friend;
no, not mine.”
Do we only think of doing the ‘reasonable thing?’ Peter
tried to talk Jesus into doing the ‘reasonable thing’ by
skirting around dangerous Jerusalem. Jesus “set his
face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), and turning to the
disciples (and to us), he simply says, “Come and follow me.”
Yes, there is another way. It is called LOVE.
3. Etty Hillesum, Jewish victim of the Holocaust, wrote: “And
then time and again, it soars straight from my heart – I
can’t help it, that’s just the way it is, like some
elementary force – the feeling that life is glorious and
magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new
world. Against every new outrage and every fresh horror we
shall put up one more piece of love and goodness, drawing strength
from within ourselves. We may suffer, but we must not succumb…” (An
Interrupted Life, p.243).
Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep. The
hired hand, who is not the shepherd…sees the wolf coming
and leaves the sheep and runs away…This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has
greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s
friends” (Jn 10:11-12; 15:12).
Yes, there is another way. It is called solidarity
and friendship. It is called LOVE.
During this year dedicated to St. Paul, I have often reflected
on the image of Ananias and Saul meeting each other in Damascus – a
land that today finds itself in the midst of so many tensions and
attempts at dialogue, a land of refugees and a land challenged
to be an honest player in the struggle for peace in the Middle
When Ananias reached the house where Saul was staying, he looked
at the man who had overseen the violent stoning of Stephen, and
who was an enemy of the followers of Jesus. He had every
right to hate this murderer. But obedient to Jesus, he opted
for the path of nonviolence and loving engagement. Luke tells
us in the Acts of the Apostles that, “Ananias laid his hands
on Saul and said, “Brother Saul…” That
was enough. With those few words Ananias spoke some of the
most nonviolent and healing words in the whole Bible. He
called his enemy, “my brother.” The world has
never been the same.
Yes, there is another way. It is the way of mercy
and nonviolence. It is to see the other as my brother
Brian J. Pierce, OP (St. Martin)
Promoter General of the Nuns