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Protesters target White House, Pentagon

NCR Staff

Two peace groups ended the year by bringing strong messages to the White House and the Pentagon: "Stop sowing the seeds of violence" and "Adopt a new investment policy for America -- sow the seeds of peace."

More than 70 members of the East Coast-based Atlantic Life Community, a group of pacifists from Jonah House in Baltimore, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker of Washington and other groups met in front of the White House on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28, and mounted the presidential inauguration bleachers with banners calling for "A New Era of Justice and Peace."

Banners denounced the "sham of spending millions of dollars for the inauguration while children are without food, homes, medical care and education."

On Dec. 30, the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Atlantic Life Community members joined at the Pentagon for further protests.

For splashing blood on the Pentagon River entrance as symbolic of lives destroyed by warfare and greed, Jerry Berrigan, 22, Christopher Jones, 21, and Matthew Smucker, 18, were arrested.

Both the White House and Pentagon actions were extensions of peace education sessions being conducted here. CPT was holding its third annual Peacemaker Congress at Luther Place Memorial Church Dec. 28-30, while a few blocks away, at Holy Name School, more than 70 peacemakers attended the Atlantic Life Community's annual Faith and Resistance retreat.

CPT director Gene Stolzfus said the organization began in 1984 with the call for peace churches to intervene in conflict situations and for people to take life-threatening risks for peace.

"We actually had our first serious program in 1990," he said, "when we sent a peacemaker team to Iraq to be with the people and to call for nonviolent alternatives to war."

The movement currently sponsors peace teams in the Middle East, Haiti, Bosnia, Chechnya and several U.S. cities and towns.

During its congress, returning peace team members shared experiences with more than 150 participants. Kathleen Kern, a graduate of Colgate Seminary, Rochester, N.Y., and recently back from two years in Hebron, gave the keynote address, "Can Christians and Jews Talk About Israel and Palestine?"

Kern condemned "the contempt for Palestinian life present in most sections of Israeli society." She said she had witnessed harassment and physical abuse of Palestinian children, women and the elderly and was herself knocked down and spit upon.

Confronting Israeli abuses of power "may mean that we cannot have harmonious relationships with some of our Jewish friends." Realizing that, she said, she has worked with CPT to distribute the "Pledge by Christians to our Jewish Neighbors," which promises to challenge any form of anti-Semitism.

At the nearby Faith and Resistance retreat, "the most striking thing was the participation of young people," said pacifist Elizabeth McAlister of Jonah House. "We had about 20 young people ages 15 to 25 determined to explore what this alternative lifestyle means to them and to their future," she said.

National Catholic Reporter, January 10, 1997