A true man of peace has come to Northeastern New Mexico. Jesuit priest, peace activist, organizer, lecturer and author Rev. John Dear, arrived in Springer in August to serve as pastor for Catholic churches in nine area communities: Eagle Nest, Angel Fire, Black Lake, Cimarron, Springer, Maxwell, Tinaja, Rayado and Paolo Blanco. From his new home he is also continuing his life’s work promoting peace and justice. He is also enjoying his new environment after spending 6 years in New York City.
John Dear “I’m delighted to be here,” Dear said. “It’s been quite a shock coming from Manhattan. More people lived on my block than in all the communities I’m serving here. It’s very peaceful, and I’m shocked by the beauty of creation.”
Dear was directly involved with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when he became one of the coordinators of the Red Cross chaplain program after the attack on the World Trade Center.
“I counseled thousands at Ground Zero. It was extremely stressful.”
Following this intense experience, Dear requested an assignment in New Mexico, where he has friends throughout the state. Of course, he is making new friends as well.
“I’m delighted he’s here,” said Eagle Nest Mayor Neva Hascall, who plays the organ for mass at St. Mel’s Catholic Church there. “It’s very humbling to visit with someone who’s done so much for what they believe.”
A philosophy of peace
Dear’s philosophy is described in an essay he wrote entitled “Our God is a God of Nonviolence: Peacemaking Religion in a Warmaking World.” He states that the root of non-violence is at the heart of every major religion, and that the violence in our world points to our widespread lack of faith.
“What happens when people of faith meet God and listen to God’s instructions? They immediately begin to disarm themselves. They beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They renounce war forever. They adopt nonviolence as a way of life. They walk in God’s way of peace for the rest of their days.
“In other words, their lives are turned upside-down.”
John DearSwords into plowshares
Dear’s life was turned upside-down in December 1993 when he was arrested at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., and faced up to 20 years in prison for hammering on an F-15 nuclear fighter bomber with a small hammer in an effort to “beat swords into plowshares,” according to the biblical vision of the prophet Isaiah.
“I didn’t even put a dent in it,” he said.
Along with the renowned and recently deceased peace activist Phillip Berrigan, he spent 8 months in North Carolina county jails. Since then, Dear, a native of North Carolina, has been arrested over 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience and has organized hundreds of demonstrations against war and nuclear weapons at military bases around the country.
He worked with Mother Theresa and others to stop the death penalty, and he has authored more than 20 books, including Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings, published in 2002.
Dear’s work for peace has taken him to El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Philippines, Northern Ireland and Iraq, where he led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners to witness the effects of sanctions on Iraqi children.
Most recently, Dear spoke at an Oct. 26 rally outside Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s house in Taos, where he said: “Bombing the suffering people will not bring democracy to Iraq. It will not bring nuclear disarmament or peace to the Middle East. It will not prevent terrorist attacks. It will not build community with the rest of the world. It will not help our economy. It will not solve our problems or lead to true security. Bombing Iraq will only protect the oil companies, sow the seeds of further terrorism, set a horrible global precedent — that it is okay to bomb preemptively — and risk the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly children.”
What everyone can do
Dear is taking advantage of his new position to take a break from the rigorous public speaking schedule he has been on for years.
“I’m turning down invitations left and right,” he said, “but I will continue to write and speak occasionally. ’
When asked what people in this area can do to promote the cause of peace, Dear said there were four things everybody could do:
1) Pray for peace and develop a peace mentality.
2) Study what’s going on — the issues of war, Iraq and nuclear weapons. “To do this, one must find sources of alternative media.”
3) Build communities of non-violence. “Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Cimarron are all called to be communities of non-violence and can serve as an example for other people and for the country. We all have to put aside our differences.”
4) Do some action for world peace. “I don’t tell people what to do. I urge them to find out what the God of Peace wants them to do, whether it be through their work, their family, advocacy or joining the peace movement.”
Dear’s next action for peace will be Saturday, Jan. 18, when he will speak at the National March Against the War in Washington, D.C.
Closer to home, Dear will sign copies of his latest book Thursday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m. at Borders Bookstore, Winrock Center, Albuquerque and Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m. at Border’s Bookstore, 500 Montezuma, Santa Fe.
Many of Dear’s writings and news stories can be found at www.fatherjohndear.org.