A Biography of John Dear
“John Dear is the embodiment of a peacemaker,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote a few years ago when he nominated John for the Nobel Peace Prize. “He has led by example through his actions and in his writings and in numerous sermons, speeches and demonstrations. He believes that peace is not something static, but rather to make peace is to be engaged, mind, body and spirit. His teaching is to love yourself, to love your neighbor, your enemy, and to love the world and to understand the profound responsibility in doing all of these. He is a man who has the courage of his convictions and who speaks out and acts against war, the manufacture of weapons and any situation where a human being might be at risk through violence. For evil to prevail requires only that good people sit on the sidelines and do nothing. John Dear is compelling all of us to stand up and take responsibility for the suffering of humanity so often caused through selfishness and greed.”
John Dear has spent over three decades speaking to people around the world about the Gospel of Jesus, the way of nonviolence and the call to make peace. A Catholic priest, he has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States, and after September 11, 2001, as one of the Red Cross coordinators of chaplains at the Family Assistance Center, and counseled thousands of relatives and rescue workers. He has worked in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and community centers; traveled in warzones around the world, including Iraq, Palestine, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, India, and Colombia; lived in El Salvador, Guatemala and Northern Ireland; been arrested over 75 times in acts of civil disobedience against war; and spent eight months in prison for a Plowshares disarmament action. In the 1990s, he arranged for Mother Teresa to speak to various governors to stop the death penalty. He has two Master’s Degrees in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in California, and has taught theology at Fordham University.
John Dear has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Sun, America, Sojourners, Commonweal, National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and elsewhere. For many years, he wrote a weekly blog for the National Catholic Reporter, and is featured regularly on the national radio show “Democracy Now!” and the Huffington Post. He is the subject of the DVD documentary, “The Narrow Path” (with music by Joan Baez and Jackson Browne) and is profiled in John Dear On Peace, by Patti Normile (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009).
His thirty books, including Living Peace, The Nonviolent Life, Lazarus Come Forth, The God of Peace, Jesus the Rebel, Disarming the Heart, Peace Behind Bars, The Questions of Jesus, You Will Be My Witnesses, Our God Is Nonviolent, The Sound of Listening, Seeds of Nonviolence, Walking the Way, Thomas Merton Peacemaker, Transfiguration, Mary of Nazareth, and his autobiography, A Persistent Peace, have been translated into ten languages. He has edited books about Daniel Berrigan, Mohandas Gandhi, Mairead Maguire, Henri Nouwen, Richard McSorley and Horace McKenna. John Dear is on the staff of Pace e Bene and www.campaignnonviolence.org. A former Jesuit, he was ordained in 1993 and is now a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Monterey, California.
“Our task, in these dark times, is simple: to speak the truth, resist war and injustice, practice nonviolence, walk with the poor, love everyone, say our prayers,
and uphold the vision of a new world without war, poverty or nuclear weapons.
We are called to follow the nonviolent Jesus on the road to peace.
If we can be faithful to the God of peace and the Way of nonviolence,
we will be greatly blessed.”
– John Dear
“The Catholic social justice tradition, particularly the part condemning weapons production, easy resort to violence, and modern warfare, is often referred to as the church’s best kept secret. Few in the church work harder at bringing that tradition to the fore than Father John Dear. A prolific writer and tireless activist, he has written more than 30 books and been arrested some 75 times in acts of civil disobedience, all the while traveling nonstop, it seems, to give lectures on peacemaking throughout the country.”
– The National Catholic Reporter
“To take care of each other should be our primary concern in this twenty-first century, and Father John Dear is steady on this course.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“John Dear not only talks about Jesus, he lives Jesus–radical, loving, nonviolent Jesus. He prisms Jesus through his own life and brings us into the adventure.”
– Sister Helen Prejean
“John Dear has the gift to capture the social gospel as Jesus and the apostles proclaimed it. His writing is in the tradition of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Jean Vanier and Daniel Berrigan.”
– J. Christoph Arnold, The Bruderhof
“John Dear’s inspired journey–inside and out–gives us renewed hope for our own personal and public peacemaking.”
– The late Fred Rogers, TV star of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”
‘Living Peace’ is a deeply moving and profoundly inspiring account of John Dear’s journey of enviable courage, boundless faith, unquestioned hope and unconditional love.”
– Martin Sheen, actor and activist
“John Dear has walked where holy words lead: to a high mountain of instruction, into the desert of forty days, into the garden of anguish. He has poured his blood on nuclear weaponry and has paid up in kangaroo courts and unspeakable jails. He has trekked about the world bearing the gospel in hand and heart, a wing-shod messenger of peace. He has lived in solidarity with the wretched of the earth–whose plight, as he well knows, is the mean feat of abominable economics and killer instincts on rampage. In this century, in this land, cleft in fragments of gigantic disorder, what a witness!”
– Daniel Berrigan
“Some teachers are all theory and some are all practice. John Dear has earned ability to be both. Some teachers are very orthodox and some open new ground. John Dear puts the two together knowing they are the same.”
– Richard Rohr
“John Dear has been arrested in the cause of peace and human decency more times than anyone else I know. I am honored to consider him a friend.”
– Joan Baez
“John Dear’s extraordinary autobiography, A Persistent Peace, reaches its climactic scene when a National Guard unit, prior to going to Iraq, stands in the early morning outside the door of his parish in New Mexico, where he has been preaching against the war, chanting ‘One bullet, one kill!’ His life might well be summed up by that scene: a Jesuit priest whose commitment to nonviolence and peace carries him to El Salvador, the Middle East and all over the United States, and whose protests land him in jail again and again. His deep faith and steadfast devotion to the principles of Jesus, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Daniel Berrigan, lead him to defy the authority of hierarchies, whether in his church or in the nation, and hold fast to his beliefs even when soldiers, chanting threats, show up at his door. John Dear’s life story is inspiring and heartwarming.”
– The late Howard Zinn, author of “A People’s History of the United States”