Peace Fest speaker urges US to disband its military, rely solely on nonviolent tactics
By Tim Mekeel
Lancaster News online
September 24, 2017
The goals of nationally known peace activist John Dear go beyond the obvious.
Dear, the keynote speaker at the inaugural Lancaster Peace Fest on Sunday, not only urged America to avoid a war with North Korea.
He also called for America to disband its military and use the money that would have gone to the defense budget for feeding starving children and sheltering immigrants.
“We say today, war and violence don’t work. War and violence are a dead end. War and violence are not the way toward a peaceful world. War and violence are not the will of the God of peace,” said Dear.
“War and violence are sinful, immoral, illegal (and) just downright impractical. The time has come for a new culture of peace and nonviolence,” he told about 300 people in Binns Park on North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster.
Dear called on America to “seek nonviolent solutions for peace” and to “let the U.N. (United Nations) resolve all the crises.”
In his 15-minute remarks, Dear did not address how deleting the nation’s military muscle might affect America’s negotiating position with foreign despots or the
U.N.’s ability to intervene in an armed conflict.
Numerous times, Dear asked the audience members if they supported his statements; they always responded with a hearty cheer.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee
Dear, 58, is a Catholic priest, author and speaker who’s been nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize and arrested 85 times for protesting, once serving a year in jail.
The resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, spoke as tension grows between the United States and North Korea, with President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un trading insults and threats.
“We are saying today, in the name of the God of peace, don’t go to war with North Korea. … Don’t start World War III. Stop all the wars. … War never leads to lasting peace,” he said.
Dear maintained that America has embraced a culture of violence so tightly that its citizens can no longer imagine a world without war, racism, sexism and environmental destruction.
“We’re all totally blind now. There’s no vision. This is our job as peacemakers — to help everyone reclaim the imagination for peace. That’s what you’re doing today in Lancaster,” he said.
Dear recalled the words of the late civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who said the day before he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968:
“It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.”
That means, said Dear, “We all have to rise to the occasion in this dark time and become our best selves — people of active, creative, loving, public, even revolutionary nonviolence.”
Nonviolence has a track record of success in America, he said, citing the movements for peace during the Vietnam War, civil rights, women’s suffrage, and other causes.
“Nonviolence means power, friends. We are not powerless. Don’t let anyone tell you that. We have the power to change the world nonviolently. Positive social change only comes about, in the long haul, from the people-power method of bottom-up grassroots movements,” he said.
Calls for local action
Dear urged residents of Lancaster city and county to launch a “Nonviolent Lancaster” movement, where “every sector of the community” embraces, teaches, preaches and/or practices the concept.
Some 50 U.S. cities have such movements under the banner Campaign Nonviolence, said Dear, an initiative launched by a nonprofit Pace e Bene (Italian for “peace and all good.”)
Festival sponsor Peace Action Network of Lancaster hoped the day’s events can help convert a culture of violence into a culture of nonviolence, said Brad Wolf.
Wolf, who co-founded the group with Mark and Nicole Temons, said 30 community organizations were invited to the festival to share what they’re doing in that area. About 22 attended.
“People think peace is pie in t sky,” said Wolf. “But our emphasis is that peace is practical. It can be done — and it can be done through the techniques of nonviolence and working through a lot of these community organizations.”
Kathi Rendall, of Parkesburg, said U.S./North Korea tension has created “scary” times. The only good coming from it, she said, is that it’s “mobilized more people to be active” in the peace movement.
Among those in the audience who’re newly involved were Matt and Judy Krebs of Lancaster, whose daughter Anika, 13, is a cellist in the Music For Everyone string orchestra that performed at the event.
“We want to be a part of a new vision for peace and nonviolence for our culture,” said Matt Krebs.
The audience also had long-time activists who were happy to see the peace movement being renewed and were happy to encourage it.
“I’ve been working on peace initiatives since the 1960s, so I try to support it when I’m able,” said Lititz resident Barry Kauffman, who spent 30 years as executive director of watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania.
“It’s nice to see the movement is still alive and hopefully regaining momentum,” he said.
His partner, Rebecca Doster, who also became involved in the peace movement in the 1960s, was encouraged by the turnout Sunday.
“It’s exciting to see a younger generation becoming aware,” she said. “Awareness is key. Awareness breeds a desire to learn, and a desire to learn breeds a desire to act.”