Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santa Claus and Nonviolent Action. . .

Hello friends,

This week I have run across a couple of examples of Santa taking part in nonviolent actions. I thought you would enjoy them!

The first story is from a 1951 campaign to racially integrate a department store in Washington, DC. The following comes from Fight On! Mary Church Terrell´s Battle for Integration (Clarion Books, New York). If you don't know about Mary Church Terrell -- read about her at

In the midst of a major campaign to integrate Hecht's department store in DC (all of which predated the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and which predated the sit-in "movement" as such by almost ten years), sit-ins and picketing had been going on for months.

As they came into the Christmas season, . . . "the planning Committee had a brainstorm. Shortly before Christmas the picketers arrived at Hecht's dressed as Santa Claus and other holiday characters. Dozens of people intending to go into Hecht's changed their minds. Who would shop in a store against the advice of Santa Claus? Hecht's officials were so furious about the "Santa Claus picket line" that they called the police, but law enforcement official refused to arrest Santa Claus and his helpers.
By early 1952 the boycott had cost Hecht's six million dollars. The firm had lost thousands of customers. They company decided that it couldn't continue such losses. In mid-January of 1952, Hecht's began serving everyone at its lunch counters." (Fight On!, page 147-148).

Our second Santa story comes from the Ottawa Citizen, just a couple of weeks ago,
about an incident at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's house

"Protestors dressed as Santa Claus and several of his elves were arrested at 24 Sussex Drive last night then they took Stephen Harper a lump of coal. It was to be his reward for what they call his sabotage of the UN climate talks in Indonesia."

Here's a picture of a flying elf!

Christmas blessings,
Matt Guynn

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent reflections

Hi friends on PWAL, and welcome to the new members this week!

Here's a theological/spiritual reflection I prepared for On Earth Peace's national counter-recruitment networking call yesterday. 

We sponsor these calls about every 6 wks, and this round included organizers from Los Angeles and Claremont, CA; Reading and Philadelphia, PA; Bradenton, FL; Oregon, and Ohio.   Each call includes some theological reflection, sharing about current challenges and victories, and practice using a strategy tool.

Although at a point it specifically refers to counter-recruitment, I thought you might like to use it for your own reflections or devotions -- insert your own area of work, when you get to that point.

Dark and pregnant Advent blessings,

Matt Guynn
coordinator of peace witness
On Earth Peace

Advent Counter-recruitment reflections
Matt Guynn, December 2007

Right now we are in the Christian season of Advent, waiting for the birth of the Christ child. Advent is a time of active expectation, of yearning -- of being conscious of what still has not been born in us, and what waits to be renewed.
As we gather today, I ask that you take a moment to breathe and notice what you are yearning for, what might be waiting to be born in you.
(Silent reflection)
Jessica Powers, a 20th century Carmelite nun and poet, wrote the following lines about Advent and about Mary, mother of God, the divine feminine:
I live my Advent in the womb of Mary / I shall be born of her by blessed grace / I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place / with hope's expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,/ guarded me and loved me, though I could not see. / But only now, with inward jubilee, / I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:/ someone is hidden in this dark with me.*
(Pause/ soaking in)
An attitude of active expectation, and receptivity, counters the way we as change workers or activists can become fascinated by our plans and strategies and the way that we are going to bring change. 
Not that strategies are bad – I love them! but I wonder if sometimes we fail to open to the gifts that God / the Divine might birth through us.
So I ask you to reflect on your counter-recruitment organizing in the last few months – Look at it with your sideways eyes, your heart vision, your intuition.  Take a breath and ask for some insight or sense about it.  What is waiting to be born?  What is starting to take shape?
(Share aloud)
Closing meditation:
"We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God has borne and which God never ceases to bear in all eternity... But what good is it, if this birth does not take place in me?  Everything lies in this, that the birth of Christ should take place in me."
~ medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart

* The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, Regina Siegfried, ASC, and Robert F. Morneau, eds., Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1999.
Matt Guynn / December 2007

Christian Peace Witness for Iraq: Update


On Earth Peace and the Brethren Witness/Washington Office were both sponsors of the March 2007 Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in Washington DC. Here is an update on the continuing organizing by this strong coalition of many Christian peace groups.

Matt Guynn


Our light continues to burn!
Participate in a conference call to learn more.

Advent greetings of joy and anticipation of peace on earth! Many blessings as you prepare for the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Sisters and Brothers,

Christian Peace Witness for Iraq continues to call Christians across the country to pray and act for peace. We hope we can provide useful resources for you and your local community as you organize. Please join us for an hour phone call to hear more about
  • The 2008 National CPWI Witness in Washington, D.C. on March 7, 2008
  • Reports about Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan from CPWI partners recently returning from the region
  • Reports from CPWI organizers who have successfully created local faith coalitions
  • New resources for faith communities planning local vigils/witness

The two identical calls will be held (choose either or come to both):

Thursday , Dec 13, 8:30 pm Eastern and Tuesday, Dec 18, 7:00 pm Pacific

Conference call information (only your phone carrier's long distance charges apply)

Conference Dial-in Number: (712) 775-7100
Participant Access Code: 167333#

Everyone interested is welcome to listen.

Joining the call to speak about his trip to Syria and Jordan, Peter Lems:

Peter is the Iraq associate at the American Friends Service Committee national office in Philadelphia . He coordinates the efforts of the organization around the country, designs and implements educational and advocacy campaigns, and works with the broader peace movement in the United States. In November 2007 Peter took part in an AFSC assessment team that visited Syria and Jordan to better understand the conditions of Iraqi refugees and explore new areas for AFSC program work. A graduate of Earlham College, he has worked for a variety of organizations focused on the Arab world, including the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, the Palestine Human Rights Information Center - International and the Association of Arab-American University Graduates.

More information on Christian Peace Witness for Iraq:

Thank you for your faithful witness,

Susan Mark Landis
For the Partners of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

Send pins with your Christmas cards!

The CPWI pin costs only 25¢ in bulk. Send one with your Christmas cards and put them on your buffet tables.


Yes, we need donations as we prepare for the March 7, 2008 mass witness in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

UGANDA: The bumpy road to Juba

CPTnet ~
4 December 2007
UGANDA: The bumpy road to Juba
by Jane MacKay Wright

The road to Juba, Sudan, from Gulu, Uganda is bumpy.  The hard-packed red earth is pocked with potholes often three meters wide.  Long ago floods have scored deep ruts in its surface.  The traffic jostles and shakes as vehicles twist and wind their way through the dust.  Bicycles slowly negotiate the edges of the thoroughfare, and give way to occasional transport trucks that jostle through.

Gulu town is the heart of Uganda's north.  Juba in South Sudan is the site of peace talks, which might end the twenty-year conflict in northern Uganda.  The fighting has been between insurgents who call themselves the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UDPF).  These armed groups have killed and maimed thousands of civilians.  The LRA raided villages, stole children, and forced them at pain of death to become killers.  They pulled young women into the bush, raped them, and compelled them to produce babies.  The government's UDPF took advantage of their "protector" role to steal, rape and kill as well.  For ten years, the regions inhabitants have had to live in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps where they have huddled together and starved.  Their fields lay fallow and wild growth took over.

The combatants, including the government of Uganda, have agreed to a cessation of hostilities, comprehensive solutions, and principles of accountability and reconciliation.  They have not signed off on a final implementation of these agreements, however.  Until a fourth agreement is completed, there is some calm but no peace.  Northern Ugandans are wary.  Outside forces are becoming impatient.  If the LRA delays, the United States wants to send troops.  Sudan is serious about maintaining influence in South Sudan and amasses weapons.  The South Sudanese, who also suffered in this war, blame the Ugandans but are wary of the Sudanese government.

Will Ugandan President Museveni try another vicious but unsuccessful military Operation Iron Fist, or is his government committed to peace?  In whose interest is continued instability in this oil-rich region?

We travel the bumpy road on the back seat of motorcycle taxis called boda-bodas.  Women sitting under a shady tree smile as each foreigner tightly grips the back of the seat.  Children in crisp school uniforms turn and watch with curiosity.  The strong young boda-boda drivers expertly weave their way between the ruts and potholes.  The red dust flies, the sun beats down, and we move toward our destination, St.  Joseph's Cathedral.  We have learned that many of these twenty-something drivers were once kidnapped LRA combatants, killers who have survived and returned from the bush.  These young men are negotiating another bumpy road.  They are stigmatized by their past.  They have memories of terror.  They have lost their families, and their future is uncertain.  They are living new lives, however.  The road to peace is bumpy but some are finding their way through the obstacles.