Father John Dear thinks everyone is called to be a peacemaker. Dear has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on a number of occasions, most notably by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for his peace activism over the course of more than 30 years. And he’ll be in Juneau to speak and run peace workshops for two days this week.
“I became a peace activist after hitchhiking through Israel,” Dear said. “I was camping out by the Sea of Galilee, reflecting on His (Jesus’) teachings, meditating on the words of the beatitudes: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’”
At that moment, Dear said, he saw jets swoop down and drop bombs on Lebanon — this was the summer of 1982 and, under Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel invaded Lebanon in “Operation Peace for Galilee.”
Seeing warfare at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Dear explained, inspired him to dedicate his life to peace and nonviolence.
“First of all,” Dear said in a recent phone interview, “I think the world is a place of total violence.”
There are more than 50 wars being waged, billions of people in poverty, 20,000 nuclear weapons and catastrophic climate change, he said.
“Violence and war are destroying us,” he said, encouraging: “All of us have to become people of peace and nonviolence.”
While Dear has been working to reach as many people with his messages as possible, he said he can’t reach everybody, so he urges that everyone become a peacemaker and do their part.
First, Dear said, “we must be nonviolent to ourselves, try to make peace with ourselves.”
Second, he said, “we also have to be nonviolent to every human being on the planet, all creatures and all of creation.”
Third, he said, “at the same time, we also have to join the global grassroots movements of peace and nonviolence.”
If this sounds intimidating, Dear offers this: “I always urge people to pick one cause and get involved. By that, I mean nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something for peace and justice.”
Dear is a firm believer that the end to war and violence is in the hands of the people at a grassroots level.
“We can end war through the methodology of nonviolent conflict resolution as taught by Gandhi and Dr. (Martin Luther) King. This is totally doable,” Dear said.
With the new Campaign Nonviolence, Dear and other activists encourage all to begin studying and promoting nonviolence. Also encouraged will be demonstrations around the nation in the fall in advance of congressional elections, he said.
“I hope people will join this campaign in Juneau, hold some protests against American war-making, corporate greed and allowing catastrophic climate change to happen,” Dear said. “We need to take to the streets and protest these things.”
Dear has taken to the streets himself to protest, often participating in acts of civil disobedience, which have gotten him arrested about 75 times.
“I’m not saying everyone has to engage in civil disobedience,” Dear explained. “But everyone has to do something for peace and justice.”
When confronted with some of Juneau’s most pervasive problems, including domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, Dear reiterated, “We all have to start teaching nonviolence — every sector of society needs to get involved.”
Dear would like to see government-funded programs to teach people methods of nonviolence. He’d like to see it in churches and schools.
“My hope is that domestic and sexual violence will dramatically decrease if we all start practicing nonviolence,” he said.
Dear doesn’t consider a peaceful and nonviolent world to be an impossibility, though it does not seem easy.
“We all have to become like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Dear said. “Or it’s just going to keep getting worse.”
Dear’s story of working toward peace and nonviolence over the past few decades is the subject of his newest book, “The Nonviolent Life.” He is on tour now talking about the book and his experiences, and will be in Juneau for two days, offering a presentation and a workshop. At 7 p.m. Friday, April 25, at the KTOO Studio, Dear will present “Peace Making, Civil Disobedience and Truth Telling in a World of Permanent War,” free to the public. Dear will also present the workshop “Living a Nonviolent Life: Nonviolence toward ourselves, community and world,” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Northern Light United Church. There is a $50 suggested donation for the workshop. For more information or to register, call 586-6879. The events are sponsored by Juneau People for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace and Northern Light United Church.
Fr. John Dear’s website: http://fatherjohndear.org/
Campaign Nonviolence: http://paceebene.org/
Juneau People for Peace and Justice: http://juneaupeaceandjustice.blogspot.com/
Northern Light United Church: http://northernlightchurch.org/