The peace movement is definitely alive and well in New York State. Here’s the latest.
We have continued our actions to close the Guantanamo Detention Center where several men are still being held despite their never being tried or convicted of any crime and having been approved for release.
In New York City, we’ve joined other peace organizations outside the main branch of the New York Public Library monthly with signs, banners, speeches, prayer, and leaflets to inform or remind passersby.
In Western New York (the Buffalo area), there was a presentation, From Guantánamo to Gaza: Resisting State Violence and Occupation, with speakers Katherine Gallagher from the Center for Constitutional Rights; Mansoor Adayfi, writer, activist, and Guantánamo survivor; and Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. There was also a vigil in orange jumpsuits at the Federal Building on the 22nd anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, and another presentation, Guantanamo, Where do we go from here? with presenters Fionnuala Ni Aolain, former UN Special Rapporteur for Counterterrorism and Human Rights, and Mansoor Adayfi.
In both NYC and Buffalo, there was an appeal to support for The Guantanamo Survivors Fund which provides grants to survivors—men transferred out of Guantanamo who suffer the consequences of their long imprisonment, which leaves many in extreme poverty.
We have been particularly active across the state in calling for a complete and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
Pax Christi Upstate New York created a Christmas tableau in which baby Jesus was presented in the rubble of bombed Gaza. It was an attempt to bring to consciousness the harsh reality of both Jesus’s birth in occupied Bethlehem and the births—and deaths—of so many innocent infants and children in war-torn, occupied Gaza. The tableau traveled from Syracuse to Albany to New York City. The one in NYC was held on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We handed out leaflets making the connection between the Feast and the Tableau. We sang, and we stood in silence. Many people passed by and couldn’t help but see us, but few engaged with us to our disappointment. You can see videos from Syracuse and NYC at these links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feK4-kZT_bM and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPvE6mX6XAw.
Pax Christi Upstate New York also participated in demonstrations for a ceasefire outside Senator Schumer’s office in Binghamton, at Representative Molinero’s office with Jewish Voice for Peace, and in Scranton, PA. They joined another demonstration at Christ Episcopal Church in Binghamton to promote peace and justice, including Gaza. And on New Year’s Day, there was a Peace Walk for Palestine in Troy NY. Read about the Scranton action here: https://covertactionmagazine.com/2024/01/03/welcome-to-the-slaughterhouse/ and about the Peace Walk here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/XYEsR9RrPZfws7vW7.
In New York City there have been regular vigils outside the U.S. Mission to the UN. Before Christmas we sang parodies of Christmas carols that highlighted the sorrows and sins happening in Gaza as most people celebrated. Since then, silent vigils continue with people holding signs and chatting with anyone willing to do so, including some of the Mission security guards! The messages are consistently: Ceasefire! Stop the Killing! End the Genocide! You can listen to a podcast about NYC actions here: https://shows.acast.com/bar-crawl-radio/episodes/i-want-to-say-kaddish.
Pax Christi Long Island (LI) is part of a coalition of LI groups urging their Congresspersons, Senators, and State Legislators to support a ceasefire. They held a press conference on January 19th at the office of Rep. Garbarino in Patchogue to make this point.
Jack Gilroy from PC Upstate NY had the following article published by the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin on Sunday, February 4th.
Americans Need to Act to Stop Gaza Violence
Why do Americans have such high regard for Israelis yet disdain the people of Palestine? For 75 years Israeli military has forced Palestinian people from their lands, occupied their homes with new Israeli settlers, or bulldozed the homes for new Israeli-occupied housing developments.
The people of Gaza are mostly Palestinians driven by gunpoint from their homes by Israeli soldiers into the most densely populated tiny strip that now is said by the Wall Street Journal to be pulverized as were the German cities of Dresden and Berlin in 1945. Homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, medical clinics, and markets were left in rubble, and thousands, mostly children, were under the rubble.
Unlike Israel, Gaza has no tanks or armored vehicles, no helicopter gunships, and Reaper drones with Lockheed-Martin Hellfire missiles or American planes and US 155 mm artillery. The attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 was a brutal terror attack after 17 years of barbed wire imprisonment of 2.2 million in an area of 139 square miles. Broome County has 197,000 people in 705 square miles.
Was that attack the reason why the Western world supported the genocide of the people of Palestine? Is it because we of the West, mostly Christians, grieve for Christian crimes committed against Jews historically, especially the Holocaust of the Nazis?
U.S. politicians have been sent to Israel over and over as delegations paid for by AIPAC to observe the fruits of U.S. military aid to Israel. As reported in Intercept on Nov. 23, 2003, ‘Millions are spent every year ferrying dozens upon dozens of congressional members to Israel for eight-day junkets.’ American Israel Public Action Committee is referred to by Wikipedia as ‘having 100,000 members, 17 regional offices, and ‘a vast pool of donors.’ The torturous treatment of Palestinians is little known by Americans even after 75 years of Israeli terror. Why is that?
New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who grew up in a Zionist household, wrote on Jan. 5, 2004) how clever the narrative of persecuted Israel is by noting the way it positions itself ‘as the victim even when it’s doing the killing.’
Most of the world is calling shame on Israel for its genocide in Gaza. South Africa has brought an 84-page indictment of Israel before the International Court of Justice. Code Pink supports the South African indictment, and it can be found by Googling Code Pink’s South African Genocide Charge Tool Kit. The Director of Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, is a Jew.
The director of the oldest United States Peace and Justice organization, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ariel Gold, is a Jewish woman from Ithaca and a graduate of Binghamton University. Ariel Gold is in support of the South Africa genocide charge against Israel.
We can’t allow such a horror to occur in our time without acting. Contact your political leaders and ask your church and synagogue leaders to break their silence on the Israeli genocide.
P.S.We can’t allow such a horror to occur in our time without acting. Contact your political leaders and ask your church and synagogue leaders to break their silence on the Israeli genocide.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
In observance of the third anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Pax Christi Long Island joined other Long Island peace groups to host a screening of the film, The Vow from Hiroshima, an intimate portrait of Setsuko Thurlow, a passionate survivor of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, who made a pledge to her friends who didn’t survive that no one should ever again experience the same horrible fate. The film follows Setsuko’s campaign with ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) to fulfill her vow. Although it has not come to full fruition, it did result in the ratification and enactment of the Treaty on January 22, 2021. In addition to the screening of the film, PCLI and their collaborators presented a talk by Professor Karl Grossman of the State University of New York, a freelance journalist and social activist who spoke on nuclear issues, the realities and dangers from nuclear energy and nuclear power to war, and the need for disarmament.
Similarly, Pax Christi Metro New York (PCMNY) co-sponsored a screening of The Vow from Hiroshima at Xavier High School in Manhattan with the filmmaker, Mitchie Takeuchi, a second-generation hibakusha and dear friend of Setsuko Thurlow, fielding questions and answers. We highly recommend others acquire this film to share widely. It is available at https://www.thevowfromhiroshima.com/.
On January 22nd, several peace groups gathered at the Isaiah Wall across from the United Nations and then processed to the U.S. Mission to the UN to celebrate the anniversary of the TPNW and to appeal to the U.S. to join it. Sad to say, no nuclear weapons state has done so yet.
As is our tradition, members of PCMNY distributed a Lenten Reflection outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on Ash Wednesday. Because of a very dubious weather forecast, we weren’t sure how much we would be able to do or even how many faithful would arrive for ashes. Consequently, we cut back on the number of leaflets we had, only 600 compared to closer to 1000 other years. It turned out that, though very cold, we were able to give out all 600 reflections to a very receptive crowd. You can find the link to the reflection on our “What We Do Page.”
Marian Ronan, a former board member of PCMNY and retired Research Professor of Catholic Studies at New York Theological Seminary in Manhattan shared the following book review about Pax Christi USA’s beloved former bishop-president, Thomas Gumbleton. It was first published in EqualwRites, the newsletter of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference.
No Guilty Bystander: The Extraordinary Life of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton by Frank Fromherz and Suzanne Sattler, IHM. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2023. Paperback, $30.00. 317 pp.
Over the years, I’ve had quite a few people ask me how I can still be a Catholic, given the sex abuse crisis, the oppression of women, Pius XII and the Nazis, and on, and on. I have often replied, “It’s the nuns, stupid,” thinking particularly of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at my Catholic girls high school who more or less made me who I am.
But now, thanks to Frank Fromherz and Sister Suzanne Sattler, I have another response: “It’s Bishop Tom Gumbleton!” Let me tell you why.
I had of course, heard of Bishop Gumbleton. But what I did not know was the amazing scope of the social justice issues he committed his life to, detailed in the various chapters of this book. These include opposing the Vietnam War; pushing the USCCB to oppose nuclear deterrence in their 1983 letter “The Challenge to Peace”; being arrested many times for demonstrating against nuclear weapons; leading Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi International in its work for Christian non-violence.
Other such issues include supporting LGBTQ Catholics after his brother came out; his relentless advocacy for Central American justice after the murders of Romero, the four churchwomen and others; his endless opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, driven by visits to those countries; his support of Jean Bertrand Aristide and the oppressed Haitian people, including helping to found a medical clinic there; extensive anti-racist work growing out of his long leadership of a Black Catholic parish in Detroit; and finally, his heroic advocacy for sex abuse victims.
I appreciate deeply the authors detailing Gumbleton’s work in these many different arenas. How did he ever manage so many demanding and sometimes dangerous activities? And how, as an introvert, did he manage to speak out and publish so bravely on so many fraught issues?
But I am also grateful to them for their examination of the ways in which Bishop Gumbleton evolved into the Christian social justice leader that he became. These begin with the engaging story of how Gumbleton changed his position on the war in Vietnam. Born into a large working-class family in Detroit in the middle of the Depression, he was ordained a fairly traditional diocesan priest in 1956 and was made a vice-chancellor in 1960.
Then, in 1965, when a number of priests were protesting the Vietnam War, the chancellor sent him to talk them out of their protests. Gumbleton listened to them for two and a half hours and by the end they had convinced him: the war was wrong. He went on to read widely about Christian nonviolence, support conscientious objectors, and eventually visit Vietnam, denouncing the torture of political prisoners there.
In the meantime, in 1968, at the age of 38, Gumbleton had become a bishop, one of the youngest in the history of the American church. Yet because of his indefatigable social justice activity, and because of the conservative turn in the church after John Paul II’s election in 1978, Gumbleton never became the head of a diocese—an “Ordinary.” But, as the authors suggest, this was probably a good thing: he would never have had the time to travel around the world witnessing oppression and returning home to fight it if he had had a diocese to run.
As mentioned above, Bishop Tom became embroiled in the sex abuse crisis. He met Barbara Blaine, the founder of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in the early 1980s, when he was the president of Pax Christi USA, and she worked in the Chicago Pax Christi office. She told him about having been abused by her parish priest beginning when she was thirteen, and how the bishop of Toledo did nothing when she reported the abuse to him.
Tom subsequently met with many survivors, and when Barbara asked him to, he agreed to testify to the Ohio House Judiciary Committee concerning a stalled bill to extend the statute of limitations on sex abuse crimes. In that testimony, he told of his own (limited) abuse as a fifteen year old seminarian and urged the Judiciary Committee to vote to extend the statute of limitations, arguing that “settlement of every case by our court system is the only way to protect children and to heal the brokenness within the church.” (231).
By the time he returned to Detroit, a number of his fellow bishops had denounced him to the papal nuncio. He had no right to speak outside his own diocese, and more to the point, his testimony threatened church finances. The Vatican demanded Bishop Tom resign from pastoring the black Detroit parish he had pastored for many years and from being a bishop, resulting in a protracted struggle with the cardinal archbishop of Detroit and his officials. People throughout the archdiocese protested his removal, but to no avail. It reflects Tom’s nonviolent heart that after these retaliatory actions, he continued to celebrate the sacraments in various parishes and expressed no hatred in response to his treatment.
As I read this book, it occurred to me that Bishop Tom Gumbleton ought to be canonized. That is, until I read the interview with him at the end of the book and realized that he is still alive, at age 93, though he has struggled with bladder cancer since 2019. Who knows? Maybe he will be canonized someday.
In the meantime, I urge you to read this galvanizing biography and be inspired, as I am, to up your actions for justice and peace. As Bishop Tom says in his closing comments, “You have to do action for justice, you have to participate in the transformation of the world…That’s living the Gospel message.” (268).
Over the past few months, PCNYS has endorsed or signed onto the following:
- Request for Urgent Humanitarian Protection for Palestinians
- A letter to President Biden to close Guantanamo Detention Facility
- Support for South Africa’s Application to the International Court of Justice regarding Genocide in Gaza
- Opposition to new restrictions against asylum seekers
- A letter to NYS Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for a bilateral and lasting ceasefire in Gaza
- A call to enforce the Leahy Law, Section 362, Title 10 U.S. Code by closing NYS operations at L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, RTX Raytheon, Schweitzer Aircraft, and any other military contractor providing military equipment or services of any kind to the Israeli Defense Forces and to apply this law nationally, as well
- A Prophetic Vision for Justice on behalf of all the innocent victims of the war in Gaza in both Palestine and Israel, especially the children
- A letter to Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York to urge his bishops and priests to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and Israel
- No to NATO, Yes to Peace for economic conversion from war to social needs
- Support for President Biden’s decision to halt pending approvals of liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to non-free trade countries and a call to stop all pending LNG exports and fossil fuel infrastructure
- Support of the Senate Earth Bill to stop climate pollution by 2030