December, 2017

On the Road to Peace
Dear friends,

Advent and Christmas peace to you! I’m so glad Advent has begun. As people of faith, as followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we have entered the holy season of peace, hope and light, in preparation for Christmas.

The country and the world worsen by the minute as we sink deeper into permanent war, extreme poverty, rampant racism, gun violence, executions, the threat of nuclear war and the environmental destruction that leads to catastrophic climate change. As hatred and fear spread, despair feels like the new normal.
But that’s not the whole story. Something else is happening, something rarely reported in the mainstream media. People everywhere like you are rising up as never before and taking a new stand for peace and hope. This gives me reason to take heart once again, even to rejoice. If you have eyes to see, Advent peacemaking is spreading all over the world.
I’ve been on the staff of Pace e Bene for nearly five years now, and this is our fourth year of Campaign Nonviolence. This past September, during our annual national week of action, we helped organize over 1,600 marches, vigils and public events across the nation and the world, attended by tens of thousands of people. Let me repeat that: over 1,600 actions! People across the country are responding to our call to connect the dots and speak out publicly against systemic violence, especially against war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction. And they also call for a new culture of nonviolence! Talk about a sign of hope.
“A grassroots movement to bring nonviolence into the mainstream has been quietly but exponentially growing,” The National Catholic Reporter said as it characterized Campaign Nonviolence.
As I travel, lecture and organize full time, I’ve met thousands of people like you in cities across the nation who are quietly building this unprecedented grassroots movement for a culture of nonviolence. In Delaware, where over 60 events occurred during the week of action, you told me about that amazing public dialogue on Muslim nonviolence. In Little Rock, I saw your efforts to stop a week of executions. In Albuquerque, I heard about your first ever block party for peace.
But that’s not all. We’ve also launched our “Nonviolent Cities” campaign, inspired by friends in Carbondale, Illinois who organized “Nonviolent Carbondale,” as a way to help their city claim a positive vision for the future of their city as a city of nonviolence. I’m working now with people in over fifty cities to organize their own community as a “Nonviolent City.”
During Campaign Nonviolence week, I traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to help launch “Nonviolent Cincinnati.” Over 400 people turned out for an exhilarating evening program, which featured energetic rap songs from young peacemakers, and inspiring talks by long time leaders. Even the Vice Mayor turned out. The next day, some thirty-five community organizers met with me for a strategizing session to help build the “Nonviolent Cincinnati” movement.
At one point, a respected African-American pastor—a leading voice against gun violence—said, “Until now, our organizations have been working in different ways to end the violence and deaths from gun violence but we’ve never shared a vision of where we want to go. This is the first time we have a unified, holistic vision for ending all the violence that plagues our city. Now we have a common vision that we can all unite behind and work toward together.”
In all my years of working for peace and justice, I’ve never seen a newer, more creative organizing approach. It’s been an exciting and hopeful experience for me.
With your support, my friends and I at Pace e Bene have accomplished significant goals:
·         1606 events involving tens of thousands of people covering every state in the Campaign Nonviolence National Week of Action, September 16 – September 24.
·         Pace e Bene lectures, workshops and trainings on nonviolence, led by me, Ken Butigan, and Kit Evans-Ford, across the country, from Indianapolis to San Antonio to Seattle.
·         Sharing our message of active nonviolence and Campaign Nonviolence to thousands of followers on Facebook, and 8000 people every week with our online newsletter.
·         Inspiring people in over 50 cities to pursue a local culture of nonviolence through our Nonviolent Cities project including Memphis, TN, Wilmington, DE, St. Paul, MN, Fresno, CA, Owensboro, KY, Cincinnati, OH, Lancaster PA and many others.
·         Distributing books, articles, cds, and videos on nonviolence through our outreach.
·         Hiring six part-time consultants—two grassroots organizers; an administrative assistant; a development coordinator; a press person; and a social media coordinator.
·         And even working with the Vatican to help draft Pope Francis’ January 1st, 2017 World Day of Peace message called “Nonviolence—a Style of Politics for Peace,” the first statement on nonviolence in the history of the Catholic Church. Ken and I continue to work with the Vatican in an effort to get a new papal encyclical on nonviolence! Wow!
A particular highlight was speaking in Lancaster, PA during Peace Fest, at the end of Campaign Nonviolence week. Over 400 people came out on a Sunday afternoon in the park where 22 community organizations set up display tables. Choirs and musicians sang. My speech was covered on the front page of the paper the next day. Brad Wolf, a former legal prosecutor who quit his job to work for peace and organized the event, described the power of the nonviolence this way: “People think peace is pie in the sky. But we think peace is practical. It can be done — through the techniques of nonviolence and working together with the local community.”
Though the daily news is grim, this growing Campaign Nonviolence grassroots movement offers new hope for peace. Everyone involved in Campaign Nonviolence, all our Pace e Bene supporters, people like you, give me new hope that we can take nonviolence into the mainstream, that we can sustain and grow a new movement to transform the culture of violence through the wisdom and methodology of creative nonviolence, indeed that we can make new strides toward ending war, racism, poverty, gun violence, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction.
Now, more than ever, if we are to keep going, build this movement, and spread this vision of nonviolence far and wide, we need your help. Please make a financial donation to Pace e Bene today. We need your help. You can send a tax-deductible donation today to “Pace e Bene,” PO Box F, Corvallis, OR, 97339; or go online towww.paceebene.org/donate; or call Ryan at 510-268-8765.
This month, my latest book, “Radical Prayers: On peace, love and nonviolence,” will be published by Pace e Bene. I hope you will all get a copy and an extra one to give as a Christmas present. Thank you!
Thank you so much for all your support of my peacework, Pace e Bene, Campaign Nonviolence, the Nonviolent Cities project, and for all you do for justice, disarmament and creation.
May this holy Advent and Christmas season be a time of new peace, hope and light for you and yours, for one and all, and may we go forward together, stronger than ever, into the new year, to redouble our efforts for Campaign Nonviolence and a Pace e Bene world of peace, that we may fulfill our vocations and do our part for the coming of “peace on earth.”
Sending Advent and Christmas blessings of peace, hope, and light, your friend,
–Fr. John