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Teaching Peace After 9/11 and the War on Iraq
"The Most Weighty Task" for Christian Leaders & Educators
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Since 9/11 and especially
in the midst of the war on Iraq, two critical issues have made it much more
difficult for Christian educators to teach the Gospel call to be peacemakers.
The first issue is the deep need for security in the face of the
fear of terrorism. The second is a heightened sense of
patriotism as unwavering allegiance to the policies of one’s government and as
total support of its military personnel during war.
Because these are so deeply rooted in US citizens, it becomes even more crucial
to find effective ways of presenting Jesus’ message of peace.
In 2002-2003, I developed two manuals for teachers to do just
this, one for K-8 and the other for high schools and youth groups, entitled THE
THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE, in which the principles and examples offered in this
article are spelled out in much greater detail.
Start With Jesus’ Vision and
Mission of Peace
For Christians, the only possible allegiance
that could overcome the power of patriotism would be their allegiance to God and
God’s revelation in the person of Jesus, if these were shown to be contrary to
particular policies of one’s government. So Christian
educators have to start with Jesus.
In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus proclaims most poignantly his and God’s commitment
to peace: "As he drew near to Jerusalem, he wept over it and
said: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if only today you knew the things that make for
peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes.
The time will come when your enemies will build walls around
you and attack you from every side. They will smash
you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one
stone upon another within you because you failed to
recognize that God had come to save you."
These words of Jesus were not meant only for his Jewish contemporaries.
In fact, this statue of Jesus weeping is located across the
street from the bombsite in Oklahoma City, where 168 people were killed by
US terrorists on April 19, 1995. The words of Jesus
in this setting are challenging: "America, America,
if only today you knew the things that make for peace.
But now they are hidden from your eyes…"
To know what Jesus means by "the things that make for peace,"
we go primarily to Jesus’ "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 5)
and his "Sermon on the Plain" in Luke’s Gospel (6: 20-42).
In these foundation texts, Jesus identifies the basic ways of
Christian peacemaking: love your enemies, do good to
those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you, for God makes the sun rise
on the bad and the good. Don’t judge others; forgive
those who have hurt you. Don’t resist evil with evil, but
with good. Turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile.
Be perfect/ merciful as your God is perfect/merciful.
In short, it is sacrificial love that is at the heart of
peacemaking, as Jesus’ own suffering and death revealed.
B. Share These in a Mutual Search for the Truth
These are compelling words, seemingly impossible
imperatives, so we can’t "club our students over the head" with them.
Also, instead of starting an examination of these words with our
own understanding of them, it is better pedagogically to speak these words
dramatically and then ask our students what they think Jesus means by them and
what they mean for our present situation as Christians in a nation that
professes to be Christian. But my experience in many
schools since 9/11 and especially right before and during the war on Iraq led me
to sense that many teachers were afraid to discuss these texts and their
As Christian educators, we have a prophetic
responsibility to share Jesus’ message of peace and sacrificial love.
But how we share it is as important as that
we share it. The process should be as honest, humble, and
mutual as possible. Gandhi’s understanding of truth and
nonviolence is critical here. Each person, he believed,
has a portion of the truth and we develop our understanding of truth in dialogue
with others who also have portions of the truth. From the
dialogue comes a greater understanding of the fuller truth we are all searching
for. Four examples have been helpful for older students.
The three others speak to middle grade students as well.
Responding to 9/11 with
As a way of re-examining the events of 9/11, this photo of a
church cross in the foreground of the exploding World Trade Center offers a
unique opportunity to reflect together on a Christian response to terrorism,
with no single interpretation of the photo as the correct one.
What is the message of Jesus’ cross? Love to the point of
offering one’s own life for others. OK, then what
does this mean in the face of terrorist killings? How
was sacrificial love/Jesus manifested at that moment?
Answers have included: the rescue workers, those in the burning buildings who
helped others out, those who gave blood, chaplains who risked their lives to
minister to the rescue workers, those who escaped, and the loved ones of those
who were killed or missing, those who reached out to others who were fearful
(e.g., Muslim neighbors not sure of what might happen to them).
As our preacher put it the Sunday after 9/11, "Hate hit, but love responded."
And love kept on responding, at least until October 7 when our
government stopped the process of grieving and searching for answers (e.g., "why
do they hate us so?") and began the bombing of Afghanistan.
A discussion with older students about how to
respond to terrorism with sacrificial love could open up many possibilities,
some of which were pursued, while others weren’t; e.g., a massive infusion of
technical assistance and aid for impoverished nations and a cancellation of
enormous debts that keep them in poverty, which is the breeding ground for
terrorists. If the message of the death and resurrection
of Jesus is that love will ultimately prevail over death, then a discussion of
how love might prevail over the death-dealing actions of terrorists could be a
meaningful example of searching mutually with one’s students beyond the limited
visions of most political leaders.
2. Dr. King’s Willingness to Name &
Confront Injustice with Sacrificial Love
Dr. King, a teacher as well as prophet, provides
a second example of this pedagogical principle of searching mutually for the
truth. In his most prophetic speech – "When Silence Is
Betrayal" (April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination), Dr. King
came out, humbly as well as boldly, against the Vietnam War and poverty in the
US and overseas as part of his expanded mission to confront the "giant triplets
of racism, militarism, and materialism."
A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when
pressed by the demands of inner truth, men [and women] do not easily assume the
task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war.
Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against
all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the
surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem
as perplexing as they often do in the case of dreadful conflict, we are always
on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we
must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the
silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of
agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the
humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.
For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that
seems so close around us.
are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our
nation, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make
these humans any less our brothers.
Because of Dr. King’s willingness to proclaim these
words publicly and intensify nation-wide campaigns to implement his "revolution
of values," particularly by his forceful opposition to the war and his "Poor
Peoples’ Campaign" that was scheduled to invade Washington, DC, in the spring of
1968, he had to be eliminated. His final public words to
a Memphis church gathering the night before April 4, 1968, hinted that his life
was soon to be taken, and it was.
Copy this excerpt (or the whole speech from THINGS…)
and have students identify where they agree and disagree with King and what they
think King would say and do about 9/11, the US war on terrorism and on Iraq, and
the expansion of US nuclear weapons.
3. Presenting Catholic Social Teaching (2)
In light of this prophet’s appeal to speak humbly, we
humbly offer our own understanding of Jesus’ message, acknowledging our own
uncertainties and questions. And this same pedagogical
principle applies to the teaching of our Holy Father and our bishops.
Before and during the war on Iraq, Vatican and Papal statements
consistently condemned the war. "Peoples of the earth and
their leaders must sometimes have the courage to say, ‘No!…No to war!’
War is always a defeat for humanity.
International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble
exercise of diplomacy – these are methods worthy of nations and individuals…"
(Pope John Paul II, 1/13/03). (3) But these statements
weren’t shared in most Catholic schools, parishes, and diocesan newspapers.
They were too contrary to prevailing sentiment and threatening to
individual Christian leaders, although our US bishops as a conference, through
the letters of Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, did challenge President Bush’s assertion of the right of
pre-emptive attack on Iraq, especially without UN sanction.
Again, if we apply the same pedagogical strategy with papal and
bishop statements as we did with the words of Jesus, it would be better to ask
junior and senior high students why they think the Pope and the bishops judged
this war the way they did. What evidence or reasons do
they think these Christian leaders used in arriving at their conclusions?
Even if we grant students the right to their own opinions and
affirm the "primacy of conscience," we have to challenge them to understand the
teaching of their Church and make judgments and act on the basis of an "informed
conscience." Especially helpful in this process is the
"point-counterpoint" presentation of the different perspectives on President
Bush’s foreign policy vision in his "National Security Strategy Memorandum" in
THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE.
Francis of Assisi and the Crusades
In those school assemblies where I had only upper grade
students, I sometimes added the story of Francis of Assisi, especially because I
have done assemblies in these schools as "Francis the Clown."
Francis as a youth dreamed of fighting in the Crusades.
And he got the chance a few years later, only to be confronted in
a dream by Jesus telling him to serve Jesus as Lord and forget about being
called "Lord Francis." Francis returned to Assisi and
became the laughingstock of the town, especially when he became a beggar and
began to live with people with leprosy. Years later he
came to understand that the cross of Christ was a call to love, while the cross
of the Crusaders was a call to conquer. How could God be honored by killing
others, and how could the Pope and the Crusaders see the Crusade as a "holy
war," he wondered. So Francis decided that he had to try to stop the Crusade.
First he went to the Pope, hoping to persuade him to call it off.
When the Pope refused to meet with him, Francis traveled to Egypt
to try to meet with the Sultan, the head of the Muslim army, and win him over
with love. The Sultan was amazed at the love and courage
of Francis and his respect for the Islamic faith, but he wouldn’t take the
chance of putting down his sword because he knew the Crusaders didn’t live their
Christian faith the way Francis did. Francis was deeply
saddened as he headed back for Assisi, but he was more determined than ever to
preach and live the sacrificial love of Jesus. So he
prayed more deeply than ever for his heart to become as loving as the heart of
to bear in his own body the extent of Jesus’ love for all on the cross.
And the cross became a special sign on the body of Francis.
Was sacrificial love "successful" for Francis?
He wasn’t able to stop the Crusade, so did love lose?
Did love win or lose with Jesus? Jesus
died without being able to stop all the violence in his beloved city of
Jerusalem. These are difficult questions.
Maybe it takes a long time for love to win.
Maybe love wins only when people are willing to give their lives.
That happened to many peacemakers in our own time – people like
Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Anwar Sadat (the President of Egypt who
tried to make peace with Israel), Yitzhak Rabin (Prime Minister of Israel who
tried to make peace with the Palestinians), and Archbishop Oscar Romero of El
5. "Pay It Forward"
For younger students especially, but older ones as
well, two youthful models of peacemaking as sacrificial love proved effective
for me in the 22 K-8 school assemblies I did right before and during the war on
Iraq. The first is a fictional story of sacrificial love.
Many teachers and students of all ages have seen the movie PAY IT
FORWARD. Asking students to recall the details (or, if
necessary, show the video or key excerpts) provides a cooperative exploration of
the meaning of the boy’s "Pay It Forward" scheme. In
response to the assignment of his 7th grade social studies teacher to create a
project that would change the world, the hero decided to do three sacrificial
things for others that they couldn’t do for themselves.
Instead of paying him back, these three recipients would "pay it forward" by
doing helpful deeds to three others, and so on. While
students may not recall all three of the hero’s sacrificial deeds, they will
remember the last one, when he stood up for a boy who was being picked on by
others, because the hero was stabbed to death in the process.
Asking students what his witness tells us about the message of
Jesus and how to apply it to their own lives and to the issue of responding to
the violence of terrorism and war can lead to a creative discussion. For
instance, US/Coalition military personnel risked their lives in freeing millions
of Iraqis from decades of repression. Nonviolent
peacemakers from Christian Peacemaker Teams and Voices in the Wilderness also
risked their lives by staying with Iraqi civilians in Baghdad before, during,
and after the war.
6. "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" (4)
Another appealing example for children of respectful
searching for truth and how to put sacrificial love into practice is found in
the story of Sadako Sasaki and the thousand paper cranes.
It was this story that proved most effective for me in helping children respond
sacrificially to the violence of the war on Iraq. I
entered each assembly with my face painted white. I pointed to the tear coming
down from each eye and said I was very sad because our country was at war and
lots of people were being killed. But then I added: "It’s
OK to be sad, but I don’t want sadness to win." I pointed
to the two red hearts painted on my face and asked what they are a sign of.
"Love," the students consistently replied.
"Right," I said, "and I want LOVE, not sadness, to win.
Let me tell you a sad story, but a story full of love."
Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb
was dropped on her city of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945.
She wasn’t killed, but more than 100,000 others were. By the time
Sadako was in the 6th grade, she was the fastest child in her class.
One day after a race, she collapsed; and she collapsed again at
school a few weeks later. When her parents took her to
the hospital, they discovered that Sadako had contracted leukemia from the
radiation from the atomic bomb. Her friend Chizuco tald
her about the Japanese legend of the thousand paper cranes, how your best wish
will come true if you make 1000. Sadako made her wish (to
get well so she could run again) and started making the cranes.
After several hundred, she started to improve, but by the time
she had made 600, she was clearly getting worse. After
making crane #643, Sadako realized that she was dying.
Lying weakly in her hospital bed, she started to cry, knowing that she would
never run again.
But then she remembered that she didn’t want sadness to win.
She wanted love to win. So she sat up,
asked for another piece of paper and made one more crane.
As she finished the crane, she made a second wish and wrote
that wish on the wings of her crane – "PEACE" – and prayed that her crane
would fly over the whole world and proclaim:
is our cry, this is our prayer: peace for the world."
When I asked students whether her wish came true, they all said
"No." So I probed the story a little deeper.
Sadako gave the world her love (in the form of a crane) as fully
as she could in that final moment of her life. Her
classmates were so moved by her love and courage that they finished the 1000
cranes and then began writing letters to people all over Japan, asking for
donations so they could build a memorial to Sadako. And
they did – a 30-foot arch in the Hiroshima Peace Park, with a statue of Sadako
on the top holding a crane over her head.
As children around the world heard of Sadako’s story, they began
making cranes and sending strands of 1000 cranes to hang from the arch.
From Sadako’s final crane has come many millions of cranes from
all over the world. So when I rephrased the question and
asked whether sadness or love won at Sadako’s death, students chose love.
To the question "did her wish (for peace) come true?" the answers
varied from "no" to "not yet" and "it’s starting to."
Then I focused my questions on the present moment.
In this time of war, how can we be like Sadako?
How can we help her wish come true? How
can God use us to work a miracle of love? I told the
students of my plans to visit Iraqi children during Holy Week – originally in
Baghdad before the war began; then in a Jordanian refugee camp.
When I suggested that the older students make paper cranes with
"PEACE" and "SALAAM" (the Arabic word for "peace") on their wings and younger
students cut out red hearts and write messages of love and hope on them, the
students and their teachers responded generously. More
than 30 large envelopes of cranes and hearts are awaiting their trip to the
Middle East when the mission becomes possible. Some
students hung their cranes in their classrooms as a reminder to pray for
and all others endangered by the war. I asked schools with bulletin
boards displaying "stars" for each US service person related to their students
to add an additional star for Iraqi children. A few students sent their cranes
to political leaders imploring them to find peaceful ways of dealing with
conflict. I also encouraged the students and faculty to raise money for a
special new fund for medicines for Iraqi children. ALL OUR CHILDREN is a
campaign of the National Council of Churches that has already raised close to $1
I concluded these assemblies with the observation that war is a time for
profound sadness. But it is also a time for profound love. As I realized
moments after the first Persian Gulf War broke out in January 1991, "in the face
of escalating violence, escalate love." In the midst of every crisis of
violence, those who believe in a God of Love and in Jesus as the revelation of
what it means to love ("to lay down our lives for others"), we are called to
escalate love and work so that love, not sadness or violence, is the ultimate
7. My Own Experience of Prophetic Witness during the War
My own experience as a prophetic witness to the truth
as I understood it led me to a week-long silent vigil across from the White
House during Holy Week. I was in "white face" with two
tears drawn under my eyes and a cross on my forehead.
I wore a "sandwich board" poster which proclaimed in front:
"Act, Pray and Do Penance for Iraqi Children Killed by Sanctions
War and for US Children Denied Health Care Here Because of the War and Tax
Cuts for the Rich." Pictures of Iraqi children
enriched the poster visually. For three days,
hundreds of passersby would stare at me and many
would make remarks, most of them negative.
I heard them all, but one I caused me to think for a long
time. "What about those Iraqi children that were
freed from prison? Don’t they count?"
Sure they do, I thought. I’m not
defending Saddam Hussein’s repressive policies. So
that night I made a new poster which proclaimed: "Give Thanks for Those
Freed and Spared; Mourn for Those Killed or Maimed."
This time I had pictures of both Iraqi victims of the war and two US
servicemen and their grieving mothers. In the words
of a critic, I found a truth broader than my original one.
Ask students what they thought about my posters
and whether they are agreed with my decision to change posters.
Have them design a poster with a political message they would
want to show publicly and decide where and when they would be willing to do
C. Find Common Ground
An important principle I realized in the course of
doing these presentations, as well as reflecting on the hesitation and
opposition I experienced from both teachers and students during the war, is
finding common ground whenever possible. First, I began
my presentations by asking what their feelings were about the war, especially,
any fears they had, and then identified with some of those feelings.
Secondly, I focused more on humanitarian, rather than political,
responses to the war, with which everyone seemed to be comfortable.
Since the war, I have shared the story of changing my poster at
the White House to read "Give thanks for those freed or spared; mourn for those
killed and maimed" and how negative comments decreased significantly.
One man commented: "Now that’s a good sign."
D. Offer a Range of Action Options for Promoting Peace/Love
A key principle for dealing with students and adults
around social issues is to provide or generate together a range of action
options, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed or pressured into doing my
particular actions. Educators do children a disservice by
making them aware of social issues if they don’t at the same time provide
opportunities for them to respond. In my presentations, I
offered a range of actions that included: prayer; direct service and donations
(the works of mercy) and political actions (works of justice).
For older students and adults, the handout I created after the
war (see pages 13-14) can be used as an example of the wide variety of actions
that can be considered, at least from my own perspective.
Some teachers might want to supplement it with suggestions from other
For those schools where the School/Youth Pledge of
Nonviolence (see pages 15-16) was already a part of the curriculum (see page 18
for resources), I encouraged the faculty and students to re-double their efforts
to put the Pledge into practice as a way of "escalating love."
The beauty of the Pledge of Nonviolence is its holistic
understanding of peacemaking as a way of living 24/7/365.
It begins with interpersonal peacemaking, with an emphasis on respecting
ourselves and others, sharing our feelings honestly and finding safe ways to
express our anger, finding peaceful ways of problem-solving and dealing with
bullying, listening carefully, forgiving and apologizing more readily, playing
more cooperatively and finding nonviolent forms of entertainment.
The Pledge also focuses on how we relate to the whole of God’s
creation, encouraging us to become more appreciative and caring for the earth.
Finally, the Pledge invites us to challenge all forms of violence
wherever and whenever we encounter it and to stand with others who are treated
In a time of war, several aspects of the Pledge are
especially important. Respecting diversity of opinions as
well as diversity of race and religion can be challenging and requires a
commitment to more careful listening to one another.
Dealing with anger in constructive ways – especially by encouraging "I
statements" – can help students reflect on the difficulties nations sometimes
have in dealing with one another. Forgiveness rather than
retaliation is perhaps the greatest challenge to emerge from 9/11.
Stories and models of forgiveness become even more important as a
way of showing that forgiveness is possible. Students of all ages have found THE
STORY OF RUBY BRIDGES inspirational (6).
So too is the witness of Bud Welch whose 23 year old daughter
Julie, along with 167 others, was killed by Timothy McVeigh at the federal
building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. As Bud tells
his story, he was consumed with rage and revenge for nine months before he
got to the point where his negativity was eating him alive.
He found the grace to visit Timothy’s father and then
discovered their common grief and pain. This led him
to visit Timothy on death row at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute,
IN. Whether or not Timothy expressed remorse for what
he had done, Bud Welch did not make his forgiveness conditional upon this
remorse. Representing this kind of heroic or
sacrificial love was a memorial cross on the chain-link fence surrounding
the bombsite when I visited it in 1997, proclaiming: "168 reasons to love
As a concluding image for the Pledge of Nonviolence, I use
the pebble as a symbol of each of the tiny deeds of love/peace we can commit
each day as we put the Pledge into practice. In the face
of the boulders of violence – war, terrorism, racism, sexism, poverty, domestic
abuse, media violence, etc – we can go on an offensive of love and pile up
pebbles to offset the impact of these boulders on our lives and communities.
Living the Pledge creatively and generously each day can become
our own "pay it forward" scheme to help change our world by changing the moral
climate around us.
E. Two Obstacles: Security/Fear and Patriotism
As compelling as these stories may be, at least for some, the
issues of security/fear and patriotism still remain and make it difficult for
American children and youth to challenge their government’s policies and/or take
a chance on sacrificial love in the face of threat.
First, in terms of security, I felt the need to reassure the children, as their
teachers had also done, that they personally would be safe, especially in the
short-term. I also asked how many had relatives in the
Middle East and acknowledged their dedication and the children’s concerns for
their safety. But especially with older students, I also
felt that I needed to be honest in my conviction that retaliation/war may not be
a source of long-term security. Killing terrorists, those
who supposedly harbor terrorists, and those who might arm terrorists may have
the opposite result of creating even more terrorists to replace those they felt
had died at the hands of a "bully" who loves to flaunt its military and economic
power to keep others poor and subservient. Rightly or
wrongly, this is a dominant perception of US actions and intentions.
True long-term security requires addressing those sources of
humiliation, poverty, and exploitation that breed terrorism; as well as creating
more effective global mechanisms for addressing these
issues and pursuing and punishing terrorists. For
students, even if they don’t agree with the characterization of the US as a
bully, this notion of the "bully" may be a good way of reflecting
on this international issue from experiences students have had in dealing with
2. Christian Patriotism
But it’s the issue of patriotism that is most important,
because Christian teaching on patriotism is quite different from the "love it or
leave it" notion that brands critics of American policies as unpatriotic and
harmful. Most Christian Churches are quite clear that this sort of patriotism is
not compatible with our faith. Our ultimate allegiance is
to God. As the Catholic bishops put it in their 1983
Pastoral Letter: "The virtue of patriotism means that as citizens we respect and
honor our country, but our very love and loyalty make us examine carefully and
regularly its role in world affairs, asking that it live up to its full
potential as an agent of peace with justice for all people" (8).
True patriots are those who are dedicated to the ideals of their
country. They love their country so much that, when they
judge it necessary, they will work sacrificially to make the policies and
practices of their country consistent with these ideals.
With teachers in mind, the US Catholic bishops added:
"To teach the ways of peace is not to weaken the nation’s will but to be
concerned for the nation’s soul…" (9).
Dr. King had come to the same troubling sense about the soul of
our nation, which he expressed in his "When Silence Is Betrayal" speech: "A true
revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way
of settling differences is not just.’ A nation that continues year and year to
spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death."
Returning to his vision of America at its best, Dr.
King called Christian patriots to join him in this task:
"America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the
way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except
a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities over the
pursuit of war." Then he concluded: "Now let us rededicate ourselves in the long
and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world. If we
will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over
America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and
righteousness like a mighty stream. May our country, on
the brink of war, take to heart the final refrain of "America, the Beautiful":
‘America! America! God mend thine ev'ry
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in
not we use Dr. King’s reflections on patriotism and war, it is important to
reflect with students on the various ways of serving one’s country.
Those who are willing to risk their lives in military service are
indeed patriots. Christian teaching on the Just-War
theory clearly permits Christians to choose military service as their way of
serving their country. But Christian teaching also
affirms pacifists who choose to serve their country differently.
Of all the models and activities described in the unit on
"Christian Patriotism" in THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE, the letter from Amber
Amundson to President Bush after her husband was killed by the terrorist attack
on the Pentagon best illustrates and validates for both perspectives.
November 24, 2001
Dear President Bush,
My name is Amber Amundson. I am a 28-year-old single mother of two small
children. The reason I am a single mother is because my husband was murdered
on September 11, while working under your direction. My husband, Craig
Amundson, was an active duty multimedia illustrator for your Deputy Chief of
Staff of Personnel Command, who was also killed.
I am not doing well. I am hurt that the U.S. is
moving forward in such a violent manner. I do not hold you responsible for
my husband's death, but I do believe you have a responsibility to listen to
me and please hear my pain. I do not like
unnecessary death. I do not want anyone to use my husband's death to
perpetuate violence. So, Mr. President, when you say
that vengeance is needed so that the victims of 9/11 do not die in vain,
could you please exclude Craig Amundson from your list of victims used to
justify further attacks? I do not want my children to grow up thinking that
the reason so many people died following the Sept. 11 attack was because of
their father's death. I want to show them a world
where we love and not hate, where we forgive and not seek out vengeance.
Please Mr. Bush, help me honor my husband. He drove to the Pentagon with a
Visualize World Peace bumper sticker on his car every morning. He raised
our children to understand humanity and not fight to get what you want.
When we buried my husband, an American flag was laid over his casket. My
children believe the American flag represents their dad. Please let that
representation be one of love, peace and forgiveness. I am begging you, for
the sake of humanity and my children, to stop killing. Please find a
nonviolent way to bring justice to the world.
The American flag laid over Craig’s casket offers another way
to raise the issue of patriotism for us as citizens of three different
communities – our nation, our global human family, and the whole of creation.
So in addition to the American flag and Pledge of Allegiance,
there are two other flags and pledges for religious educators and school and
faith communities to consider including in the learning environment. Dr. Elise
Boulding, an eminent US peace educator of the past 50 years and author/lecturer
on a culture of peace, provides a challenging reflection for older students and
adults on the type of patriotism needed for the 21st Century (11).
The discussion of whether and how to honor all three levels of
community and citizenship in our lives would serve as a wonderful opportunity to
model the basic pedagogical principles highlighted in this essay.
It would also provide an opportunity to reflect more deeply on
what God wants of us as instruments of God’s peace and pray with Francis of
Assisi: "Lord, make me a means of Your peace.
Where there is hatred grown, let me sow Your love.
Where there is injury, Lord, let forgiveness be my sword.
Lord, make me a means of our peace."
Three Levels of Patriotism or Citizenship for the 21st Century
"The new century with its hoped-for
Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence seems to be crumbling around us.
But this is not a time for despair. It is
a time for new learnings about the complexity of peacebuilding in a world alive
with diversity. We have not understood the structural,
cultural and spiritual difficulties of our task.
Particularly, we have not understood the emerging three-fold citizenship
required of us in the 21st century: (1) faithfulness to
our country, (2) faithfulness to the new requirements of citizenship in the
United Nations for all six billion of us, and (3) faithfulness to another kind
of citizenship entirely – in the kingdom of heaven, which we share with all
creation. Each of our three citizenships is intertwined
with the other two. What shall our practice be?"
--Dr. Elise Boulding
For the world to survive in this time of unprecedented global peril, we must
cultivate three senses of patriotism, which are represented below by the three
flags we should be flying and pledges we should be saying with our hearts and
hands as well as our head.
As a citizen of the United States:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the
United states of America and to the
republic for which it stands:
One nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible, with
LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.
As a citizen of the earth:
I pledge allegiance to the earth,
to cherish every living things,
to care for the earth and sea and air,
with peace and justice everywhere.
As a citizen of the global community:
We the Peoples of the United Nations,
determined to save succeeding generations
from the scourge of war...and to reaffirm
faith in the equal rights of men and women
and of nations large and small...and to live
together in peace with one another as good
neighbors...have resoled to combine our
efforts to accomplish these aims
(from the UN Charter, 1945)
Peacemaking Action Options in the Aftermath of the War
Some Political/Public Responses
Support effective humanitarian aid
by urging President Bush and Congress to increase humanitarian aid to Iraq and
to channel it through UN and US humanitarian agencies, not through the
Pentagon. Sign and promote the "Citizens’ Humanitarian
Pledge" toward this goal.
Support the UN by challenging any other unilateral assertions of US
military, political, and economic power, first in determining the interim
government of Iraq and then in any future "Iraq's;"
and by urging the US government to reconsider its rejection of the Kyoto
Agreement on the environment, the International Criminal Court, and Bush
administration decisions to withdraw from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and
add smaller more usable nuclear weapons to the US arsenal of weapons of mass
destruction. Contact Voices in the
and MoveOn for updated accounts and specific action
Support Middle East peace by challenging the
administration to move seriously, immediately, evenhandedly and multilaterally
in pressing for a just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Contact the Shalom Center
and the Palestine-Israel Journal
for analysis and specific action suggestions.
debt cancellation and a massive infusion of aid for poor
nations, a new "Marshall Plan," to address widespread poverty that serves as
the breeding ground for terrorists. Contact
for updated action suggestions.
Support political candidates who have a more cooperative
and less arrogant vision of the role of the US in today’s global society.
Continue to speak, teach, and preach prophetically,
using Dr. King’s "When Silence Is Betrayal" speech as a source of inspiration
and analysis; and encourage religious and community leaders to speak out against
militarism, racism, and poverty/materialism.
Note to K-8 and high school teachers:
Use our new
resources on responding to terrorism and war,
THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE.
Some Humanitarian/Economic Responses
to programs working with the victims of the war, including the
National Council of Church’s ALL OUR CHILDREN campaign (P.O. Box 968,
Elkhart, IN 46516) to purchase medicines for Iraqi
children; donate also to programs working with poor children in our own nation.
Redirect some of our tax dollars and/or investments
human needs, not supporting war or the worst of corporate America.
Some Personal/Spiritual Responses
for the victims of war and injustice, political leaders, and
peacemakers; and pray in the words of other faith traditions and reach out to
people from these traditions, especially Muslims. Use pictures of those people
for whom you want to pray regularly. Use Francis of
Assisi’s "Peace Prayer." Contact
Pax Christi USA, as well as
the various denominational peacemaking offices, for a variety of prayers and
worship services, also the Muslim Peace
Do penance for our personal and our national abuse of the
world’s resources, as well as for the evil of war and other forms of domination.
Consider a variety of ways of fasting – from some foods and
liquor, from oil, from privatized [bottled] water, from speaking (if we tend to
dominate with our words), from any other resources or privileges for which our
government justifies its need for dominance.
Escalate love (random acts of kindness and beauty)
throughout our daily routine, to the point of genuinely sacrificial love.
Be good to one another and to the earth and all her creatures.
If you are using our IPJ Pledge of Nonviolence or Pax
Christi’s Vow of Nonviolence, do so more faithfully.
Family Pledge of Nonviolence
Family Pledge of Nonviolence - pdf
Youth Pledge of Nonviolence
School Pledge of Nonviolence
Check out all of our versions of the Pledge of Nonviolence.
For more information, contact James McGinnis, Institute for Peace
& Justice, 4144 Lindell Blvd., #408, St. Louis, MO
(ORDER ON LINE
Order Form or Call
For Christian High Schools and Youth Groups:
Things That Make for Peace
This unique 125-page resource on "peacemaking in post-9/11 America" provides
reflection and activities for youth on the peacemaking vision of Jesus, Gandhi,
and other faith traditions; on Christian teaching on war, peace and patriotism;
on the US War on Terrorism & Iraq; on a variety of prophetic peacemakers, other
actions for peace, and the UN Decade for Peace & Nonviolence; plus prayer cards
from Pax Christi USA, and the special post-9/11 issue of YES Magazine on CAN
LOVE SAVE THE WORLD?
The Christian High School & Youth Group Planning Guide & Teachers Manual --
In addition to the units from
THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE, this 500-page
binder is a planning guide for administrators, plus 400 pages of activities,
readings, and action suggestions for youth and their teachers/ministers on
implementing all seven components of the Youth Pledge of Nonviolence.
For the TAP Program,
where high school youth are trained to teach the Pledge of Nonviolence to
elementary school aged children, there
are also these resources:
Youth Instructor Workbook -- $35 each, 1-9 copies; $30 ea for 10+ copies
Readings, reflection questions, and action suggestions for youth in putting
the Pledge of Nonviolence into practice, plus suggestions for teaching the
Pledge to younger students.
TAP Adult Training Manual -- $35
with guidelines for adult advisors on recruiting, training, and helping TAP
youth instructors learn, live, and teach the Pledge; plus descriptions of
various program models.
For K-8 Christian Schools and Religious Education Programs:
The Things That Make for Peace
This unique 125-page resource on "peacemaking in post-9/11
America" provides reflection and activities for children on most of the themes
in the high school version, plus dealing with children’s fears, the human
consequences of war, how violence works, cultural carriers of violence, positive
images of peacemaking, and living as members of the global family.
The Complete K-8 Christian
Education & School Kit -- $99.95
Includes a PROGRAM PLANNING GUIDE for creating a school-wide program around
the School/Classroom Pledge of Nonviolence, with detailed models from 8 schools
and religious education programs; a 450-page TEACHER RESOURCE BOOK with lesson
plans for Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 for the 7 Pledge components, including the units
from THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE; plus the
KIDS CREATING CIRCLES OF PEACE
Student Workbook, A CALL TO PEACE: 52 MEDITATIONS
ON THE PLEDGE, the CELEBRATING
RACIAL DIVERSITY teachers manual, the
TEACHING PEACE CD and Song
Book, a vacation Bible school curriculum around the Pledge; plus sample worship
services and parent handouts.
1 Following the Second Vatican Council, the US Catholic Bishops issued
their pastoral letter HUMAN LIFE IN OUR DAY, in which they addressed Christian
educators: "Those who are dedicated to the work of education, particularly the
young, or who mold public opinion, should regard as their most weighty task the
effort to instruct all in fresh sentiments of peace" (# 132).
2 Because I was speaking in Catholic schools and to Catholic educators, I used
statements from Catholic Church leaders; but THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE
includes statements on the war from other Christian Churches as well.
For the various Catholic
Church statements on the war on Iraq, see
In order to reinforce my dichotomy between love and sadness, I have added a part
to this story that probably isn’t accurate (how Sadako decided not to let
sadness win). For the full story, see Eleanor Coerr,
SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPERS CRANES (Fellowship of Reconciliation, P.O. Box
271, Nyack, NY 10960).
5 Donations can be sent directly to AOC at P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46516.
For more information, contact All Our
6 See Robert Coles, THE STORY OF RUBY BRIDGES (Scholastic Inc, 1995).
7 The unit on "Christian Patriotism" in THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE is fully
ecumenical, with a variety of activities and essays, including one by James
McGinnis entitled "Be the Best That We Can Be," reflecting the understanding of
patriotism presented here.
8 THE CHALLENGE OF PEACE, 1983, #327.
9 THE CHALLENGE OF PEACE, 1983, # 304.
10 Amber Amundson is a member of
September 11th Families for Peaceful
Tomorrows, advocating nonviolent ways of dealing with the threat of
terrorism and war.
Visit their website for specific actions they are involved in
Boulding, CULTURES OF PEACE: THE HIDDEN SIDE OF HISTORY.
12 Lillian Genser is the author of the World Pledge. She has a beautifully
illustrated poster of the Pledge and a Study Guide for using it in the
classroom. Contact her at 14431 Balfour, Oak Park, MI 48237.