Christmas challenge for a nonviolent Australia


'Peace On Earth' by Chris JohnstonWhen the nonviolent Jesus was born into abject poverty to homeless refugees on the outskirts of a brutal empire, angels appeared to impoverished shepherds singing, 'Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!' Peace was coming. They were so excited, they couldn't contain themselves.

That child grew up to become, in Gandhi's words, 'the greatest nonviolent resister in the history of the world'. He taught peace, lived peace and blessed peacemakers. 'My peace is my gift to you,' he said. When we refused to learn 'the things that make for peace', he broke down and wept.

He took action to end systemic injustice, in a nonviolent way. For his civil disobedience he was brutally executed by the empire. When he rose from the dead, he came back not seeking vengeance, but once again, offering his gift of peace. 'Peace be with you,' he said over and over again.

Two thousand years later, the world remains stuck in the old cycle of empire, war, poverty, and injustice. This time, however, the empire's weapons have the power to destroy the planet. The money spent funding our wars and weapons bankrupts us and leaves millions in hunger.

On top of that, our greed and systemic violence destroys the environment. Catastrophic climate change is our own fault, and may bring unprecedented 'war on earth'.

In the US, many of us work daily to resist the American empire. We pray, protest, write, and speak out. We stand up, sit down, camp in, occupy, cross the line and go to jail. In short, we do what we can to welcome the Christmas gift of peace.

This year, America's deadly outreach has come to Australia, a place I have grown to love during my visits and speaking tours. I think the US military presence there could mark the beginning of the end of your hallowed land.

My advice? Don't welcome the American military. Don't let them stay. Don't let them plan future wars in Asia from their new Australian base. No good can come of its presence in Australia. It will only lead to further wars, greater insecurity, more death and destruction. Resist the American war machine.

That's actually the message and challenge of Christmas. If the birth of the nonviolent Jesus heralds the coming of peace on earth, then each one of us is called to join God's global peace movement and do what we can to welcome that gift of peace.

Each one of us is needed to help stem the tide of war.

Australia is called to lead the world toward a new future of peace, not continue the downward spiral of global warmaking. It should stand up and say No to US militarism.

I hope people of faith in Australia will speak out with renewed vigour against the US military and pursue the Christmas vision of peace. I hope they will organise and build a nonviolent movement to turn away the US military presence and herald the coming of a new nonviolent Australia.

'Peace on earth' means 'No More War!' From now on, we work for a world beyond our wildest imaginations — a world without war, nuclear weapons, poverty, violence, or environmental destruction. Once we achieve that, our celebration of the birth of the nonviolent Jesus will ring true.

John DearRev. John Dear is a longtime US peace activist and the author of 28 books, including Lazarus, Come Forth!: Living Peace; Jesus the Rebel; Transfiguration; The God of Peace; and The Questions of Jesus. He writes a weekly column for the US National Catholic Reporter. Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Topic tags: John Dear, Australia, America, foreign policy, War on Terror, non-violence



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Existing comments

Oh yes, we should resist the USA, and all the rest too. The Rev. has good intentions but clearly knows nothing of the long time pact with the USA, military, economic and cultural, that the western world, never mind Australia, has long been living with, with the USA. Nor does he seem to be aware of the 'joint facilities' we've had here for ages, or the tanks that cannot be moved anywhere to got from a US tank scrap yard. It's past redemption for this nation, as far as resisting the Great Satan goes. The next best move would be to reduce the power and influence of religions, all of them, on the world, to avoid the endless religious violence religions promote. Still, a good thought on the part of the Rev all the same.
Andy Fitzharry | 21 December 2011

I am sure US and Australian soldiers do what they can--and more than most--to help refugees. I am sure many US and Australian soldiers have been, or are refugees ie. homeless, experiencing violence, and have experienced poverty themselves. Only granting "refugee" status to those from systems other than our own will oppress and scapegoat our own poor by denying their very existence. To overgeneralise is to miss the humanity of your so called "enemy". Jesus message of peace was--love God and your neighbour (your neighbour is the one in need who you show mercy to--regardless of religion, race, gender, sexuality etc) May we all be neighbours to each other and thank God for the capacity to do that. Merry Christmas :-)
Leonie | 21 December 2011

Thankfully what the Dear Rev is advocating is not what happened in WW2 or we in Australia would be speaking Japanese! The quote attributed to George Orwell but contested is highly relevant "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Sleep peacefully this Christmas Dear Rev!
Ed Marshall | 21 December 2011

I disagree with basicly everything to do with America's presence in Australia. I think that tightening realations with America is a much better (moral) choice than the alternative (bedding up with China). The US looks like a nation of saints in almost all respects when compared with China and is certainly the lesser of two evils.
Llywellyn. | 21 December 2011

John Dear a left wing pacifist. Must Eureka Street always promote left wing propaganda???
Ron Cini | 22 December 2011

Not blessed with Jesus' divinity or Gandhi's patience, I have never been able to turn the other cheek. Sixty years ago, I defended myself with my fists to gain acceptance and respect in the playground. Thirty-five years ago I encouraged my Eurasian son to learn martial arts to defend himself against the racist bullying he would face. Several times he has fought himself out of trouble in the street and assisted more than one who was not so equipped to defend himself. I cannot adopt or defend a pacifist position in relation to national security or international stability any more than I can believe we will eliminate poverty in my lifetime. Pacifism without a "just-in-case" military backup is simply not realistic for the world we live in. And a "just-in-case" military backup quickly takes the leading role without the safeguard of strong civil society and respect for other nations, other cultures, other religions. Pacifism is not an effective tool to put an end to war. Broad education in other cultures, learning to respect and appreciate the contribution of all peoples to our common humanity is a good starting point. But I admit that, at present, it is only a start.
Ian Fraser | 24 December 2011

To RON CINI: The answer to your question is 'Yes'. (Just google it. It's easy to find the answer - comes up in wikipaedia straight away)... 'Left-wing generally refers to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society. It usually involves a concern for those in society who are disadvantaged relatively to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities (which right-wing politics view as natural or traditional) that should be reduced or abolished.' 'Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence.' Jesus in The bible says, in Matthew 5:9, 'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.' I don't think you need to be a theologian to understand John Dear's stance.
AURELIUS | 30 December 2011

The opening lines of this piece don't persuade. 1. Mary and Joseph weren't refugees at the time of His birth. According to Luke, people the "whole world" over journeyed to his or her home town to enroll in the census. Thus, Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. Theirs wasn't a flight from some political oppression in Galilee. 2. The Roman Empire was no doubt brutal to many - as was just about every other form of state in those and many other times, compared to our modern Western regimes - even the demonised American Empire! But, on the scale of empires, seriously, under Caesar Augustus, does it rate as particularly brutal? I submit: no. 3. Jesus was not born in abject poverty. Sure, the immediate circumstances of His birth were inconvenient. But even in modern day Australia, some children are born in cars on the way to hospital, and that's not referred to as "abject poverty". Soon after His birth, Mary and Joseph could afford to travel with the infant Jesus to Egypt, remain there for a good while, and travel back to their hometown Nazareth, with no mention of destitution. Now with that exodus, you might refer to them as "refugees". But that was after His birth. And they weren't "homeless" in the sense of not having a home to go to after the death of Herod. Whatever valid points Fr Dear may subsequently raise about Australian-American relations, his dubious attempt to skew the Holy Family's situation as pressing the buttons of contemporary political correctness doesn't inspire confidence.
HH | 30 December 2011

I cannot believe the general tenor of the submitted comments. If ever one was surprised at why we resort to war every sixty years or so one has only to read the above comments to gauge the mind of one's fellow citizens. Their reaction alone is reason enough for me to wake from my sloth and become an active peace activist.Dear John you need my support. I am only sorry it has taken me sixty one years to get to that point.
graham patison | 10 January 2012


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