Peacemakers Offer Alternatives to War

While America is nowhere near as prepared to wage peace as it is to wage war, there are alternatives. America's peace groups are working hard at defining them and putting them into action. This is the first of a series of interviews with peace group leaders in the aftermath of Tuesday's events.

Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends (Quakers) Service Committee (Philadelphia):

We have launched the No More Victims campaign to help support victims and survivors of the tragedies. No More Victims is also designed to educate the public about finding peaceful solutions in the face of these terrible acts.

We understand the grief, the fear, the anger, the rage. We feel them ourselves. But a violent response will not bring justice and safety, and it might bring another terrible attack.

The perpetrators of Tuesday's attacks are criminals. They must be brought to justice under the rule of law. And their supporters must be brought to justice under the rule of law.

This could possibly be done through the World Court or the UN could call a tribunal. If these legal mechanisms don't work, we can create something. With the support we have, not only from our allies but from all the world, we could find these people and bring them to justice through the legal system and throw them in jail for the rest of their lives.

People are still stunned by these events, and finding it hard to plan and be heard. We are trying to work with our partner organizations, Quakers all over the country, and others to get our voices heard in Congress. All that seems to be being heard so far in Congress are the voices suggesting war and retaliation and retribution (blood for blood).

Anger is the first reaction and the easy reaction. There is no question that the anger is legitimate. I am angry down to the soles of my feet. We all are. But we have to take a step back and say this is an opportunity for the U.S. to stand tall and lead the way out of this cycle of violence that is constantly increasing.

Carol Hansen Grey, Executive Director, Women of Vision in Action (San Francisco):

Cultural creatives (affluent, well-educated individuals, motivated by environmentalism and social justice) do not want war. That doesn't mean we don't want the people who did this brought to justice. We do. But we don't want to kill other innocent people.

I had the idea to bring together representatives from different groups of cultural creatives to brainstorm for alternative solutions. I am in the process of arranging this. Bringing representatives from these groups together to say what is the best step to take would be a message to our senators and representatives that there are a great number of us who don't want war. Then we can take it back to our groups to make it happen.

Molly Rush, co-founder, Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice (Pittsburgh):

We had a interfaith prayer vigil at the Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh. About 100 people came. It was quite moving, with a lot of ministers and priests. Its purpose was to pray for the victims and to make clear that we felt strongly that the perpetrators should be brought to justice, but also to say let's not escalate the violence that will create more innocent victims.

Leaders always think their wars are going to be manageable. It is not clear that a campaign against terrorism has a remote chance of winning. There is so little attempt to understand why people could get to the point of religious fanaticism and hatred that they would kill themselves.

The Board, staff, and membership of the Merton Center have been invited to a meeting this weekend to look at where we are and how we are going to move in this situation. We have endorsed a statement basically opposing going into war, but I think we have to come up with our own ideas.

My answers now are contingent. There has to be a lot of thinking on this. At the moment I do not find it easy to think clearly about how to respond in a human way to what we are up against. A lot of human support for war is emotional and based on real fear. But if we had a few days, we would realize that a war would bring more of what we experienced this last week.

My own sense is that we need to call together a lot of the groups that work on the peace issue and are being drowned out in a media that is sounding the drumbeat of war. Decisions are being made and are announced when they happen. How do you respond to something that is underway?

I hear our Senator Rick Santorum say that it is not a time for justice. I think it is precisely a time for justice, and justice means that we search responsibly for the perpetrators and those supporting them.

We are well aware of how sometimes -- often -- evidence is produced and later found to be faulty if not actually manufactured. But you try to think of how to find the real links and make the kind of cases that could be brought to the World Court and result in an arrest.

It may be that U.S. courts would take this on. It was an act in the U.S. People need to be brought to justice with evidence, bringing faces to the crimes, not just blaming a whole nation.

People want to blame Afghanistan or Iraq, and it may be that there is collusion. At this time the U.S. has the strongest worldwide support for an international outcry that would have an impact on those nations. I doubt that bombing them and killing more innocent people will have as much impact as diplomatic and economic actions.

We have to find some alternatives to war, using systems that we have like the World Court. These systems are weak and fragile because they haven't been well supported, and the U.S. is largely responsible. Now having to rely on them when we have opposed them sounds crazy. But we have to oppose the craziness of war.

And it is important to learn more about the reasons for the hatred of the U.S. and a worldwide economic system that keeps so many people down. We need to do teach-ins here and have forums on the issues.

It is hard to think of how to do this without reaching out to the other peace groups. All of the peace groups are so underfunded and understaffed. Many people have been working on local and immediate issues, but we need to find a way to voice these concerns across a wide spectrum of people.

Janet Jai is a writer and founder of the firm Vision and Values. She is currently writing a book called World Peace: A Beginners' Guide.


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