Monday, January 30, 2006

Peace Pilgrim

From 1953 to 1981 a silver haired woman calling herself only "Peace Pilgrim" walked more than 25,000 miles on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." In the course of her 28 year pilgrimage she touched the hearts, minds, and lives of thousands of individuals all across North America.
Photo Peace Pilgrim

In 1952, the year before the pilgrimage, Peace Pilgrim (then Mildred Norman Ryder) became the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season. Learn more about this historic journey. Read webmaster Bruce Nichols' account of his 2002 50th anniversary AT hike.

Inspired by Peace Pilgrim, others have taken up this path:

In her own words:

Never underestimate the power of a loosely knit group working for a good cause. All of us who work for peace together, all of us who pray for peace together, are a small minority, but a powerful spiritual fellowship. Our power is beyond our numbers.

Those who seem to fail pave the way and often contribute more than those who finally succeed. I cannot help feeling grateful to the peace pioneers, who worked for peace when the going was rough and there were no apparent results.


One of the most common questions asked of me is: "Have you seen any results from your pilgrimage?" The answer is that I've never asked to see results - I leave the results in God's hands. They may not even be manifest in my lifetime, but eventually they will become manifest. And, believe it or not, I have seen results: Lots of letters from people indicating they have been inspired to do something for peace in their own way - anything from writing letters to Congress to making peace with some friend or relation. And it all adds up.

Peace will probably come to the world in the same way as it has come to our land. Out of the chaos of civil war, Indian wars and the duels of hundreds of years ago, has come order. Mechanisms have been set up to avoid physical violence, while psychological violence still endures. The smaller units, the states, have given up to the larger unit, the United States, the right to make war. Yes, I think the time will come when the smaller units, the nations, will give up to the larger unit, the United Nations, one single right: the right to make war.

I don't believe the nations would or should give up other rights. People have the most control over their affairs at a grass-roots level. Anything that can be fairly and efficiently handled at a grass-roots level should be thus handled, and only delegated to a higher authority when necessary.

The United Nations would have as its job maintaining a peaceful situation in the world. As long as we remain immature the UN would have a police force to deal with individual offenders against the peace of the world - by removing them, I would hope, for their rehabilitation. Also it should have an unarmed peace force to deal with war prevention. While our nation can deal with problems like an inadequate food supply, the UN would have to deal with problems like a country striving for freedom - and freedom is now the desire of all human hearts.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Martin Espada

Martin Espada reads his poem Imagine the Angels of Bread.

Ghazal for Open Hands

in memory of Agha Shahid Ali
December 10, 2001
Northampton, Massachusetts

The imam stands above your grave to pray with open hands,
cupping your spirit like grain in the palms of these open hands.

Poet of Kashmir, the graveyard lathers my shoes with mud
as the imam calls to Islam's God and lifts his open hands.

Ghazal-maker, your pine box sinks into a cumulus of snow,
red earth thumping on the coffin, dropped from open hands.

There are some today who murmur of the cancer in your brain
but do not know the words for speaking to Allah with open hands.

We listen to Islamic prayers at the cemetery, as we pay for bombs
to blossom into graves in places where they pray with open hands.

Far from here, the bombs we bless are tumbling down in loaves
of steel to tear away the fingers from their hungry open hands.

Shahid, your grave multiplies wild as cancer cells across Afghani earth,
countless prayers reverberating in the well of the throat, in open hands.

I cannot scrape off the mud choking my shoes or blink away the vision
of reaching into the hole for you, my hands open to your open hands.

-- Martín Espada


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

St. Francis of Assisi

GIOTTO di Bondone
Fresco, 270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

In Thomas of Celano's biography of the saint, Francis visited the Sultan of the Egyptians in 1219. He was recieved by the Sultan with highest honors. The sultan offered Francis fine gifts, but the saint refused them. This won him the greatest respect. When he returned to the crusaders, he advised them to make peace with the Muslims, but to no avail.
Some of his companions expressed a desire to participate in the fight against the Muslims. This angered Francis and he said, "If in these days there is success in the encounter, then, as the Lord has shown me, it will not come to a good end for the Christians. If I say this, I will be considered a fool, but if I remain silent, I will not give up that of which I am certain...." They told him to fear God more than men and to teach. He jumped up and preached in a strong voice to the Christians. In order to prevent war, he predicted defeat. However, the truth was mocked. They hardened their hearts and would not pay attention to him. The biographer writes, "May the princes of the earth know this and understand, that it is not easy to fight against God, that is, against the will of the Lord." (II, 29).
Francis prayed three times for a vision and finally was shown that in the entire struggle with the Muslims, the Christians would run away and the war would bring shame rather than triumph.
See Thomas von Celano, Leben und Wunder des Heiligen Franziskus von Assisi, tr. Englelbert Grau, O Fr, 4th ed. Werl/Westfallen: Dietrich-Coelde Verlag, 1988.
The painting depicts a legend found in St. Bonaventure as follows:
In the thirteenth year of his conversion, Francis journeyed to the regions of Syria, constantly exposing himself to many dangers in order to reach the presence of the Sultan of Babylon. Taking a companion with him, a brother named Illuminato, he came upon two lambs. Overjoyed to see them, he said, "Trust in the Lord, brother, for the Gospel is being fulfilled in us: Behold, I am sending your forth like sheep in the midst of wolves."
When they proceeded farther, the Saracen sentries fell upon them like wolves swiftly overtaking sheep. By divine providence they were led to the Sultan, just as Francis had wished. When the Sultan inquired by whom, why and how they had been sent, Francis replied with an intrepid heart that the Most High God had sent him to point out to the Sultan and his people the way of salvation and to announce the Gospel of truth.
Inspired from heaven, Francis continued: "If you wish to be converted to Christ along with your people, I will most gladly stay with you for love of him. But if you hesitate. . .then command that an enormous fire be lit and I will walk into the fire along with your priests so that you will recognize which faith deserves to be held as holier and more certain."
The Sultan replied that he did not dare accept this choice because he feared a revolt among his people. Nevertheless, he offered Francis many gifts, which the man of God spurned as if they were dirt. Seeing that Francis so completely despised worldly possessions, the Sultan was overflowing with admiration and developed an even greater respect for him. Thus it came about that the divine fire burned still more perfectly in Francis' heart, so that later it would be clearly seen in his flesh.

Selections from Saint Bonaventure, The Major Legend of Saint Francis, Chapter 9.

Also see:

Monday, January 23, 2006

Emma Goldman

...if America had been a grown man instead of a child it would have learned the lesson that no matter how great the cause it is never great enough to sacrifice millions of people in the trenches and on the battlefield in the name of democracy or liberty.
Prisons have never solved any problems. Guns and bayonets have never solved any problems. Bloodshed has never solved a problem. Never on earth, men and women, have such methods of violence, concentrated and organized violence, ever solved a single problem. Nothing but the human mind, nothing but human emotions, nothing but an intense passion for a great ideal, nothing but perseverance and devotion and strength of character--nothing else ever solved any problem.

Speech Against Conscription and War
by Emma Goldman
[Delivered at Forward Hall, New York City, June 14, 1917]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

John Lynes

HEBRON POEM: Shabbat patrol
by John Lynes

The young have no time for miracles.
You must forgive an old man. Today I pray for a miracle.
Miracles? Why not?
Apartheid ended without bloodshed;
the Berlin Wall fell;
Leningrad became St Petersburg;
the IRA gave up their arms.

A Jewish child, I hid my eyes
from the pictured corpses of Belsen and Buchenwald.
There but for the grace of God --
Resurrection was not a word I knew.
How could I believe I would live to see
children and grandchildren of the Holocaust
crossing the fields of the Promised Land
to synagogue on Shabbat?
Could there be a more heavenly vision?
But surely not for this world?

Yet two by two, there they walk as I write,
not to any old shul:
to synagogue on the very spot where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Leah, Rebecca and Sarah, lie buried.

"Shabbat shalom," I greet the worshippers.
Some have learned to recognise my red hat
the mark of a Christian Peacemaker in Hebron,
and they spit at me
and they curse me as a Nazi. And it hurts.

It hurts.

You must forgive an old man --old enough to recall real Nazis.
Today I pray for a miracle.
I long to be part of that miracle, whatever the cost.
Will you pray with me?

"Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth,
lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust,
lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe."
Shalom - Salaam - Peace.

the poem was posted 21 Jan 2006 at

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Communist Martyrs

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were tortured and murdered on 15 January 1919 by members of the so-called Freikorps. They were co-founders of the German Communist Party. An estimated 20,000 people participated in the traditional memorial for them in Berlin this year.

The most famous quote from Rosa Luxemburg is: “Freiheit ist immer die Freiheit des Andersdenkenden.” (Freedom is always the freedom of one who thinks differently.)

Neither Luxemburg nor Liebknecht were pacifists, but they were vehemently and outspokenly opposed to militarism. Their approach to peace was Marxist: war is fought for the benefit of capitalists at the expense of the working classes. They hoped in vain to instigate a general strike in opposition to the first world war. It is because of opposition to the war that they broke with the SPD. Bolsheviks used the term “Luxemburgism” to denounce deviations from Leninism because Luxemburg and Liebknecht attempted to fuse communism with democratic ideals. Even if we disagree with the communist ideology, we should appreciate the stance they took against the war and against militarism; and we should remember that they gave their lives for what they believed.

Rosa Luxemburg: The Militia and Militarism (1899)
Karl Liebknecht: Militarism and Anti-Militarism (1907)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Narration about Ali, peace be with him

‘Arzamí reported that Abu ‘Abdullah (`a)* said, “‘Alí had a servant whose name was Qanbar. He loved ‘Alí with an intense love. When ‘Alí went out, he would go out after him with a sword. Ali saw him one night. He said to him, ‘O Qanbar! What are you doing?’ ‘I came to walk behind you. Verily, the people are as you see, O Commander of the Faithful! So, I am afraid for you.’ Ali said, ‘Woe is you! Would you protect me from the folk of heaven or from the folk of the earth?’ He said, ‘No, rather from the folk of the earth.’ He said, ‘Verily, the folk of the earth are not capable of doing anything to me except by permission of Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent, from heaven. So, go back!’ So, he returned.”
This narration is from Shaykh Saduq's Tawhid, Bab 55, No. 7.
*(`a) means "peace be with him," `alayhi al-salam.
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