- Bob Aldridge USA, Ground Zero, nonviolent campaign against Trident nuclear missile system
In the 1970’s, while working as Lockheed’s Trident missile designer, Aldridge started feeling uneasy about his job. He recognized that the underlying purpose of Trident’s Mark-500 maneuvering re-entry vehicle (MARV), for which he was responsible, was to be in a nuclear first strike.
Aldridge shared his questions of conscience with his family. His oldest daughter encouraged him to resign. “Someone must have the courage to start,” she said. The family decided to simplify their life-style and Bob submitted his resignation on January 2, 1973.
Aldridge shared his story and Trident information with Seattle and Vancouver friends and in January 1975 at the Vancouver School of Theology, the Pacific Life Community was formed to begin the Trident campaign. They taught about and nonviolently protested the nuclear weapon missile system being developed at Bangor, Washington. Land was purchased after three years next to the base and the Ground Zero Center for Non-violent Action was built.
- Benigno Simeón Aquino (1932 – 1983) Philippines, resistance to Marcos regime
At age 22, Aquino became mayor of Concepcion and married Corazon (Cory) Cojuango. His murder 29 years later inspired a massive unified crusade that defeated Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 election and made his widow President of the Philippines. A politically active opponent of the Marcos regime – the youngest and only Liberal senator at age 34 – Aquino was arrested in 1971 when Marcos declared martial law to hold onto power after his presidential term expired. From his prison cell Aquino formed the political party “People’s Power", but in 1978 all candidates lost due to election fraud. He was tried and sentenced to death, but Marcos held off, fearing to make him a martyr. In 1980 he had a heart attack and was sent to the U.S. for treatment. Blocked from returning, he stayed three years, wrote two books and travelled the U.S. speaking against the regime. In 1983, hearing of political unrest and threats of extremist violence, he evaded denial of landing rights and flew home, hoping to persuade the now – ailing Marcos to restore democracy peacefully. Surrounded by Marcos security guards while leaving the plane, he was shot twice in the back of his head.
- Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/82 – 1226) Italy, established new Order in the Catholic Church with values of peace and justice
Saint Francis gift to humankind was his love of God as he experienced Him in all of His creation. He thought of all humans and other creatures and even the sun and moon, as his brothers and sisters. A seemingly ordinary although talented young man from a fairly wealthy family, he was inspired through visions, solitude and prayer to renounce the values of his society, commit to a life of poverty and service and attract other men to join him. With a small group of followers he established a new religious Order whose members lived according to the Franciscan Rule: “To follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and walk in His footsteps”. Later, he established an Order for nuns and another for friars, laypeople who couldn’t leave their homes and families. He worked tirelessly to direct and help these groups despite frequent illnesses, his last two years in constant pain and almost blind. Over the centuries, Franciscans grew in numbers and spread around the world, millions teaching, nursing, helping wherever there were poor and needy people, inspiring themselves and others with ideals of peace and justice.
- Mubarak Awad (1943 - ) Palestine, nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestine, founder of Nonviolence International
Awad became a refugee in Jerusalem after his father was killed in 1948 during the fighting between Jews and Arabs. After he graduated high school, he traveled to the U.S. and studied psychology at Bluffton University in Ohio then helped create programs for troubled and abused children. He returned to Palestine in 1985 as a child psychologist supporting children’s rights around the world and established the Palestinian centre for the Study of Nonviolence. The Centre sponsored nonviolent resistance during the intifada, planting olive trees and encouraging the use of Palestinian products. He was deported by Israel in 1988 and returned to the U.S. where he founded the organization Nonviolence International, promoting nonviolent resistance and human rights in over six countries.
Dr Awad is Adjunct Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, School of International Service, The American University, Washington, D.C. and Resident Researcher with the American University Center for Global Peace, in Washington.
- Daniel Berrigan (1921 - ) USA, , protesting against Vietnam War, member of Plowshares Eight
Berrigan joined the Jesuits directly out of high school. During the Vietnam War, he, his brother Philip, and Thomas Merton founded an interfaith coalition against the war. In 1967, his brother was arrested for nonviolent protest and sentenced to six years in prison. In 1968, he became involved in radical nonviolent protest. He manufactured home-made napalm and, with eight other Catholic protesters, used it to destroy 378 draft files from the Catonsville, Maryland draft board. Berrigan spent three years in prison.
On September 9, 1980, Berrigan, his brother Philip, and six others began the Plowshares Movement. They illegally entered the General Electric Nuclear Missile facility in Pennsylvania, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto files. They were arrested and spent ten more years in prison.
Berrigan continues to maintain a level of activism and protests. He now resides in New York City and teaches at Fordham University in addition to serving as its poet in residence.
- Philip Berrigan (1923 – 2002) USA, protesting against Vietnam War, member of Plowshares Eight
In 1943 Berrigan was drafted into combat duty in WWII. He was deeply affected by the violence of war and the racism of boot camp in the Deep South. He became active in the Civil Rights movement where he marched for desegregation, and participated in sit-ins and bus boycotts. He was ordained in 1955, but left the priesthood in 1973. He, his brother Daniel Berrigan and Thomas Merton founded an interfaith coalition against the Vietnam War where they wrote letters to major newspapers calling for an end to the war. Soon they took more radical steps. In 1967 as a member of the Baltimore Four they poured blood on Selective Service records stating, "This sacrificial act is meant to protest the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood in Indochina." For this he served 6 years in prison. When released on bail, he decided to repeat the protest in a modified form burning 378 draft files, and issued the statement: “We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor.” He was sentenced to 3 1/2 years. In 1980 as a member of the 'Plowshares Eight' in Pennsylvania they hammered on two nose cones on the Mark 12A warheads, poured blood on documents and offered prayers for peace. This resulted in nearly 10 years of trials and appeals.
He and his wife founded a community in Baltimore to support resistance. Their 3 children all grew up to be anti-war activists.
- Jacques Pâris de Bollardière (1907-1986) France, former general converted to pacifism, resistance to nuclear testing
Bollardière joined the French Foreign Legion in 1935 then De Gaulle’s “Fighting French” in 1940. During the First Indochina War he took part in many commando actions. In the Algerian War of Independence in 1956 Bollardière was promoted to General of Brigade, becoming the youngest general of the French army of the time.
In opposition to government policy regarding use of torture among French units, Bollardière requested to be relieved from command, and returned to France in January 1957. He was sentenced to 60 days of fortress arrest for publicly supporting Servan-Schreiber. He ultimately resigned from the Army but earned many honours for bravery during his military career.
Bollardière converted to pacifism after hearing a talk by Jean-Marie Muller in Lorient, on 23 October 1970. He presided over the association Logement et Promotion Sociale between 1968 and 1978. In 1973, he was arrested by the French Navy during protests against nuclear trials in Mururoa, in the Pacific.
- César Estrada Chávez (1927 - 1993) USA, co-founder of United Farm Workers, rights of farm workers
Mexican-American Chávez is remembered for innovative leadership that raised farm workers wages through peaceful strikes and boycotts that usually ended with the signing of bargaining agreements.
Chávez had a difficult early life, his family cheated out of their small home, school problems and racial slurs. After Grade 8 he became a farm worker, then spent 1944-46 aboard ship in the US navy. He married in 1948 and had 8 children. Returned to civilian life, Chávez began discussing and reading about farm workers, strikes and nonviolent approaches. From 1952-56 he was a union organizer – later national director- for a Latino civil rights group. He traversed California speaking in support of workers’ rights and urging Mexican-Americans to vote. In 1956, he co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW). In 1965, the UFW helped grape-pickers through an ultimately successful 5 year strike, getting media and public attention by such means as a historic farm workers’ march on the California capitol, encouraging a boycott of table grapes (15% compliance believed to wipe out profits) and a Senate Subcommittee hearing, where Robert Kennedy fully supported Chavez. In the 1970’s more strikes and boycotts improved wages for farm workers, then (1980’s) Chávez led a boycott to protest use of toxic pesticides on grapes and Chávez got attention by fasting. Chávez opposed unrestricted immigration as undermining US workers and making it easy to exploit migrants.
- Mairead Corrigan (1944 - ) Ireland, one of the founders of Peace People, peace process in Ireland
Mairead and fellow peace activist Betty Williams shared the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. Both were Northern Irish but from the opposing groups: Mairead Catholic, Betty baptised Catholic but identified with Protestants via her father and husband. An IRA car pursued by British soldiers ran over and killed Mairead’s sister’s thee children and Betty saw it happen. Ciaran McKeown, a journalist and community activist committed to nonviolence, wrote a feature for the Irish Press, “What would Ghandi Do in Belfast?” Ciaran, Mairead and Betty became leaders of the Peace People movement that helped toward a peace process and the Good Friday Agreements. Thousands began marching for peace. Mairead and Betty brought 35,000 onto the streets of Belfast. Within 6 months, violence dropped 70%. Now, the Peace People focus on the root causes of conflict and campaign for nonviolence, justice and equality. In April 2007, Mairead was tear-gassed and hit by a rubber bullet during a protest against construction of the West Bank barrier outside a Palestinian village.
- Judy Da Silva Anishnaabe Nation, Canada, indigenous and environmental rights, Grassy Narrows
Asubpeeschoseewagong - the Indigenous or Ojibway name for Grassy Narrows is situated 80 kilometers north of Kenora, Ontario in Canada. The Grassy Narrows community has been through many traumas including attendance in white-governed residential schools, forced relocation away from their traditional living areas, mercury contamination, flooding of sacred grounds and burial sites, and clear-cut logging of their forests. These traumas have led to many social, health and economic problems, as well as the devastation of the culture.
Grassy Narrows continues to advocate for ecological justice, and self-determination. After more than a decade of letter-writing, meetings, protests, petitions and legal efforts, young people from the Grassy Narrows community took matters into their own hands. On December 2nd, 2002, they established a blockade on a logging road in their territory, and sparked longest standing and highest profile indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history.
Da Silva is a community member and representative of the Grassy Narrows Environmental Committee. Since 2002, she has participated in the community blockade of logging roads to the Grassy Narrows Traditional Territories. She has also spoken with many individuals and groups about how the blockade and campaign to stop clear-cut logging is an important part of reclaiming dignity by taking a stand in response to the pollution, relocation, flooding of sacred grounds, and other abuses endured by her community.
- Dorothy Day (1897-1980) USA, co-founder of Catholic Worker Movement, helped found Pax Christi USA
Day was raised in a poor Chicago neighbourhood where her father was a sports journalist. She took an interest in politics and news during WWI and joined the socialist party and became a journalist. She was first jailed with a group of suffragists in 1917 when she was demonstrating outside the White House. She became a single parent who supported herself as a free-lance journalist on the ' Catholic Worker’ during the Depression. Circulation grew to 190,000 and then dropped due to its pacifist stand. It is currently over 80,000.
Day and a friend, Peter Maurin started the Catholic Worker Movement which organized discussions and lectures, and they talked about social order, working conditions and the importance of changing social distribution of power. She went to jail 4 times from 1955-1959 for acts of civil disobedience. She and a group of women fasted for 10 days in Rome at the Vatican Council II, wanting the bishops to condemn all war. The Council did eventually condemn nuclear war. Day was also instrumental in founding Pax Christi USA, and wrote several books and many articles.
- Alfred Delp (1907 – 1945) Germany, resistance to Nazi regime, Kreisau Circle, hanged
Active in the Catholic Youth Movement, Delp joined the Society of Jesus then became a Jesuit priest in 1937. He secretly helped Jews who were escaping to Switzerland through the underground. From 1942 Delp worked with the clandestine Kreisau Circle to develop a model for a new social order after the Third Reich came to an end. The Kreisau Circle worked to enlighten the Allied Forces, especially the United Kingdom, about conditions within the Third Reich and the threats and weaknesses of Nazism. The main focus was to plan and propose a peacetime government for Germany. They do not appear to have made plans to overthrow the Nazi state, although some moved on to this after one of the leaders was arrested in early 1944 and the group fell apart. Delp was arrested in Munich in July 1944. At his trial in January 1945 he was sentenced to death by hanging for high treason.
- Jean Donovan (1953 – 1980) USA, El Salvador, accompanier in El Salvador, was murdered
Donovan grew up in an upper-middle-class home. Searching for a life of deeper meaning, she joined the diocesan mission project in El Salvador to work as a lay missioner in La Libertad along with Dorothy Kazel, an Ursuline nun. They helped refugees of the Salvadoran Civil War and the poor by providing shelter, food, transportation, as well as burying the dead left behind by death squads. She was a follower of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Donovan and Kazel used their visible presence to accompany people in danger, or to get supplies. They became a well-recognized sight in their white mission van. On Dec. 2, 1980 Donovan and Kazel picked up 2 missionary sisters. They were stopped by 5 National Guard men and were taken to an isolated spot where the women were beaten, raped, and murdered by the soldiers. The bodies were found by peasants who were told to bury the women in a common grave. However, one informed his parish priest and the news reached the local bishop and the US Ambassador, and eventually the US causing public outrage forcing the US government to pressure the El Salvador regime to investigate. The UN was called in. US foreign policy had been supporting the right-wing government through the Carter, Reagan and Bush administrations.
- Jim Douglass USA, Ground Zero and the nonviolent campaign against Trident nuclear missile system
Catholic theologian, activist and frequent arrestee -- Douglass is considered the spiritual father of Ground Zero. In 1960 he served as theological adviser on questions of nuclear war to Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council in Rome. He and his wife, Shelley began the nonviolent campaign against Trident (first-strike nuclear missile system) from their home, at the time, in Vancouver, where they helped form the Pacific Life Community. They tried not to just stop the weapon system but to change the way that we live and think, creating relationships with people through relentless leafleting workers entering the base. By the late '70s the peaceful protests drew thousands, and hundreds were taken to jail, mostly for trespassing. By telling people about the weapons on Hood Canal and elsewhere, it is thought that the peace movement prevented WWIII. "Ground Zero is an ember that has sometimes flamed high and sometimes just burned there. It will flame up again" --and transform the world.
Douglass and his wife run Mary's House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Alabama. He has written several books on nonviolence.
- Mary Two-Axe Early (1906 – 1996) Mohawk Nation, Canada, indigenous women’s rights
Mary became a political activist at age 55, after a friend who had lost Native status by marrying a non-Native was ordered off the reserve where she was born, and later denied burial there. Mary had also lost status by marriage. When she moved back to the Kahnawake reserve into a house inherited from her Grandmother, band members were resentful and threatened eviction. Angry and determined to change the Indian Act which penalized women – but not men - who married non-Natives, Mary began her “Eagle Flight to Equality.” She founded a provincial Native women’s organization that became national, submitted a report to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, which was supportive, and spoke at women’s conferences. Her campaign succeeded. Bill C-31 (1985) amended the Indian Act to end discrimination and provide a reinstatement process that restores all Status rights to Native women and their children, including health and education benefits.
- Shirin Ebadi (1947 - ) Iran, advocated rights of refugees, women and children after the Iranian revolution, Nobel Peace Prize 2003
Ebadi graduated from University of Tehran law department in 1969 and passed the qualification exams to become a judge. She started her judging career in 1970 becoming the first woman to preside over a legislative court. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, conservative clerics declared it was prohibited by Islam for women to become judges. Ebadi was demoted to a secretarial position but protested with other women judges against this and they were assigned a slightly higher positions of “law experts.” Until 1993 Ebadi was not able to practice as a lawyer, but used her free time to write books and articles in Iranian periodicals. She fought for respect of the rights of refugees, women and children in Iran under constant harassment, threats and arrests. Her peaceful political approach to supporting intellectuals under threat and students victimized by aggression as well as her legal work brought her time in prison. She founded the Association for the Support of Children’s Rights and the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights. In 2003 Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous efforts for democracy and human rights especially for women and children.
- Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1931 - ) Argentina, liberation of the poor through nonviolent means, resistance to military regime
Pérez Esquivel studied architecture and sculpting in university, and taught in these fields for 25 years. In the 1960s, he began working with Latin American Christian pacifist groups, and in 1974 he left his teaching position as he was chosen as coordinator for a network of Latin American based communities promoting liberation of the poor through nonviolent means.
Pérez Esquivel worked to gather financing and create links between popularly based organizations that defended human rights and supported the families of victims of atrocities committed by Jorge Videla’s military regime (including founding El Sevicia de Paz y Justicia [Service, Peace and Justice Foundation] that promoted an international campaign to denounce the atrocities).
During the late 1970s Pérez Esquivel was detained and arrested several times while in other Latin American countries. In 1977 Argentinean police arrested him in Buenos Aires and he was tortured and held without trial for 14 months. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the defense of human rights.
From 2003 he has been president of the Honorary Council of Service, Latin American Peace and Justice Foundation and of the International League for Human Rights and Liberation of Peoples, based in Milan, Italy.
- Ricardo Esquivia (1946 - ) Colombia, founder of the Christian Centre for Peace, Justice and Non-Violence, works to build peace in the churches and communities
A visionary Mennonite described by some as the ‘Gandhi of Colombia’, Esquivia has dedicated his life to building peace in Colombia, a country with the worst human rights record and longest running civil war in the Northern hemisphere which has left 3 million people displaced, second only to Sudan.
When his father developed leprosy Esquivia lived on the streets until the Mennonite church became his extended family and educated him. After studying law he returned to the Caribbean coast to organize poor farmers in Montes de Maria. Accused of being an ideologue for the guerrillas, he and his family fled to Bogota where he founded, then directed the Christian Centre for Peace, Justice and Non-Violence for 13 years. He helped develop a commission for peace among churches and participated in national dialogues with legal and illegal armed groups. His work with conscientious objectors forced him to flee for a period to the United States.
In 2004 he moved back to the Caribbean Coast, forming a small non-profit, faith-based organization, Sembrabdopaz (Sowing Peace). He works on ‘a laboratory of peace’ funded by the European Union. He has created a network to develop income-generating projects, reweave the social fabric and create an infrastructure for peace.
- Mohandas Gandhi (1869 - 1948) India, nonviolent resistance (Satyagraha) to British rule, Shanti Sena (Peace Army)
Gandhi was the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon total nonviolence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. He is officially honoured in India as the Father of the Nation; his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers in protesting excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, but above all achieving independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led Indians in the Non-cooperation movement in 1922 and in protesting the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, on numerous occasions, in both South Africa and India.
As a practitioner of nonviolence Gandhi swore to speak the truth, and advocated that others do the same.
- Hildegard Goss-Mayr (1930 - ) Austria, Fellowship of Reconciliation, nonviolence trainer
Mayr studied philosophy in Vienna and New Haven, being the first woman, in 1953 to earn her doctorate sub auspiciis. Her father was a Catholic leader of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest religious pacifist organization in the world. In 1962 she began her work in Latin America for the construction of a nonviolent movement. In meetings with more than 200 bishops, she urged that Pope John's '63 encyclical on peace be expanded, and that the question of the deterrent be addressed as well as individual responsibility--conscientious objection to war and military service. "It seems right that laws make human provision for the case of those who for reason of conscience refuse to bear arms, provided however, that they accept some other form of service to the human community."
Goss-Mayr and her husband had key roles in the preparation (including nonviolence trainings) of the Revolution in the Philippines in 1986. She has trained many groups active nonviolence in Latin America, Asia and Africa. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Coordination for the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence.
- Thomas John Gumbleton (1930 - ) USA, one of the founders of Pax Christi USA, protests against war, Catholic bishop
Gumbleton studied at Pontifical schools in Plymouth and Rome and became a priest in 1956. He earned a doctorate of Canon Law. Gumbleton became Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit in 1968 and has served as pastor to several parishes.
Bishop Gumbleton was founding president of Pax Christi USA in 1972, an organization devoted to promoting peace. He remains one of the organization’s “Ambassadors for Peace”. A vocal opponent of the 2003 war in Iraq, he recently returned there to view how the war has affected the country. He has participated in peace vigils and television and radio appearances. The bishop has caught attention due to his public protesting towards violent actions. In 1999 he was arrested for disturbing the peace. Gumbleton has distinguished himself as being the only Roman Catholic bishop in America to have taken such action in protest of the war.
- Thich Nhat Hahn (1926 - ) Vietnam, resistance to the war and reconstruction after, reconciliation
Thich Nhat Hanh, through his writings, poetry and retreats, is one of the most known and respected of Buddhist masters. Just the same, we may forget his unwavering commitment to nonviolence and peace since the war in Vietnam.
In 1964, he mobilized the young people in South Vietnam to reconstruct schools and health centres destroyed by bombings. At the time of the fall of Saigon, more than 10,000 monks, nuns and social workers were implicated in this movement. As the main editor of the ‘Bois Press,’ the state censored his writings on reconciliation and the elaboration of lasting solutions to conflict.
In 1966 he joined the International Fellowship of Reconciliation for a world tour where he gave testimony to the sufferings of the Vietnam population due to the war. His crusade for the end of hostilities continued until the peace accords were signed in 1973. He was an important collaborator in the declaration of the United Nations General Assembly which made the years 2001 to 2010 the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.”
- Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910) USA, abolitionist, proposed “Mother’s Day” with proclamation that calls for peace and disarmament
Julia Ward Howe lived in Boston and raised five children. She was a writer, and involved in the abolitionist movement and the Unitarian Church. The lyricist for the 'Battle Hymn to the Republic' in the American Civil War, Howe proposed an official 'Mother's Day' in 1870 with her Mother's Day Proclamation, calling for peace and disarmament.
then, women of this day!....Say firmly,
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs........
the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient....
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,...
The great and general interests of peace.
After the Civil War Howe focused on pacifism and the Women's rights movement.
- Iraq War Resisters, US military personnel who are refusing to fight in Iraq and are seeking refuge in Canada, www.resisters.ca
A growing number of people are leaving the U.S. military, refusing to fight in Iraq. Some of them are seeking sanctuary in Canada. Dozens of U.S. war resisters have applied for refuge in Canada, and more are coming every month. Canada has a history of welcoming war resisters, during the Vietnam war, between 50,000 and 80,000 Americans came here. But today, war resisters face new challenges. Changes in immigration laws have made it more difficult for them to gain asylum.
On March 30, 2009 the House of Commons voted, for the second time in 10 months, to let Iraq War resisters live in Canada. The vote on a motion from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration directs the Government of Canada to immediately stop the deportation of U.S. Iraq War resisters and establish a program to facilitate permanent resident status for the resisters and their families.
A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies in June 2008 found that 64 per cent of Canadians want the government to allow Iraq War resisters to become permanent residents of Canada
When Private First Class Joshua Key was shipped to Iraq, the US army combat engineer believed he was doing the right thing.
"I left for Iraq with a purpose, thinking this was another Hitler deal. But there were no weapons of mass destruction. They had no military whatsoever. And I started to wonder."
He served eight months in Iraq before going AWOL. Key arrived in Toronto in March of 2005, with his wife Brandi and their four young children. Asked what led him to desert, he says: "The atrocities that were happening to the innocent people of Iraq. I didn't want to be part of it no more. I came home and I deserted."
On July 4 2008, the Federal Court ordered that the Immigration & Refugee Board hold a new hearing for Joshua's refugee claim. The landmark decision by Justice Barnes could open up similar avenues for other resisters.
- Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) USA, intentional Koinonia community, civil rights
Even when young, Jordan was troubled by the racial and economic injustice he perceived in his hometown, Talbotton, Georgia. Hoping to improve the lot of sharecroppers through scientific farming, he earned a degree in agriculture from the U of Georgia, then a PhD in theology. He, his wife and another missionary couple moved to a 440 acre tract near Americus, Georgia to create an interracial, Christian farming community, Koinonia (meaning fellowship). Koinonia partners believed in the equality of all persons, rejection of violence, ecological stewardship, and common ownership of possessions. They lived in relative peace with their neighbours until the civil rights movement progressed. Koinonia became the target of a stifling economic boycott, repeated violence, including bombings and torching.
In the '60s they lived with lessened hostilities and Jordan turned to speaking and writing of his well-known "Cotton Patch" series. In 1965 Millard and Linda Fuller moved to Koinonia and started 'Partnership Housing' which led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity in 1976.
- Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 – 1988) British India, Pakistan, founder of nonviolent army Khudai Khidmatgar resisting British rule, worked with Ghandi
Ghaffar Khan was from the Pashtun tribe. His father was a prosperous farmer and spokesperson for their people with the British officials. Despite disapproval from the Islamic leaders, he attended a British run mission school. He began working towards educating his people’s youth and opened a school at the age of 20; later his goal was to form a united, independent secular India. He founded the Khudai Khidmatgar, a form of active nonviolence based on Mahatma Ghandi’s Satayagraha, and formed a close friendship and worked closely with Ghandi.
Ghaffar Khan was a champion of women’s rights and became a hero for his bravery, liberal views, nonviolent methods and faith in the compatibility of Islam and nonviolence. While some Pashtuns wanted independence from both India and the newly created state of Pakistan, Ghaffar Khan was strongly opposed to the partition of India following the departure of the British. In 1948 under the new government he spent several years in prison. He was viewed with suspicion by the establishment for his liberal views, although he and the Khudai Khidmatgar pledged allegiance to Pakistan. He died while still under house arrest.
- Martin Luther King (1929-1986) USA, civil rights movement, “I Have a Dream” speech, assassinated
During his studies, Martin Luther King, Jr. was very influence by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi on nonviolence. In 1955, he became known during the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in which the city’s black population refused to ride the buses in protest against the transportation company’s segregationist practices. As a young pastor, he became leader of the protest movement and organized nonviolent actions modeled after those of Gandhi. He contributed to the expansion of nonviolence with the development of elaborate training programs in nonviolent action. For 381 days in Montgomery, blacks walked rather than take the bus. The boycott became a prominent issue nationally and a Supreme Court ruling established segregation on buses to be unconstitutional. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s triumphant moment as leader of the Civil Rights Movement was as one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington, under John F. Kennedy’s presidency, where he deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before 250,000 supporters. A year later, a federal civil rights bill abolished all forms of segregation. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the age of 39 in a motel in Memphis, in April, 1968.
- Wangari Muta Maathai (1940 - ) Kenya, Green Belt Movement, Nobel Peace Prize 2004
An academic environmentalist and political activist, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. “Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya….Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression – nationally and internationally….an inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights….especially encouraged women to better their situation.” Among her achievements: first Ph.D to an Eastern African women; dean of the faculty of veterinary medicine, U. of Nairobi; founded the Green Belt Movement that has planted over 30 million trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion; former chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya; demanded multi-party elections and an end to political corruption despite being imprisoned several times and violently attacked (Moi regime); Assistant Minister, Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife (National Rainbow Coalition Govt.); founded the Mazingira Green Party, 2003; first president of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council, 2005.
- Nelson Mandela (1918 - ) South Africa, struggle against apartheid, Nobel Peace Prize 1993
Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, initially committed to nonviolent resistance, who shifted his strategies to become the leader of the African National Congress's armed wing. The South African courts convicted him on charges of sabotage, as well as other crimes committed while he led the movement against apartheid. In accordance with his conviction, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island.
Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa. Mandela is a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, who held office from 1994–99. Since the end of apartheid, many have frequently praised Mandela, including former opponents. Mandela has received more than one hundred awards over four decades, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on topical issues.
- Rigoberta Menchú (1959 - ) Guatemala, women’s rights, rights of farm workers, resistance to military oppression in Guatemala, Nobel Peace Prize 1992
Menchú was born into a poor Indian peasant family, attended Catholic boarding schools and worked with her family on coffee plantations. As a teenager she became involved in social reform activities through the Catholic Church, becoming prominent in the women’s rights movement. After being accused of taking part in guerrilla activities, her father was imprisoned and tortured for allegedly participating in the execution of a plantation owner. Upon his release, he joined the Committee of the Peasant Union.
In 1979 her brother was tortured and killed by the army, the following year her mother died after being arrested, tortured and raped. In 1980 she worked for better conditions for farm workers then joined the radical January Popular Front, educating peasants in resistance to military oppression. In 1981 Menchú went into hiding, and then fled to Mexico, organizing the resistance struggle from abroad. In 1983 her life story was written and she became the voice of the victims of violence in Guatemala as well as a leading advocate for Indian rights. Menchú won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, and ran an unsuccessful bid in the 2007 Guatemalan presidential election.
- Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) France, USA, writer on social justice, civil rights, nuclear proliferation
While at Columbia University Merton discovered Catholicism in a real sense. In October, 1935, in protest of Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, he joined the local peace movement. While teaching in Olean, New York, his spiritual life blossomed and in 1942 he committed to living his life at the Abbey of Gethsemani monastery NY. By the 1960’s he had developed a personal radicalism with political implications, rooted, above all, in nonviolence. Later, given the freedom to travel he went on a tour of Asia. He died in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, electrocuted by an electric fan as he stepped out of his bath. He is buried in Gethsemani.
Merton is now considered by many to be an important 20th Century mystic and thinker. His letters, diaries, and books reveal the intensity with which their author focused on social justice issues, including the civil right movement and proliferation of nuclear arms.
- Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Argentina, bring attention to their disappeared children who had resisted military government
The Mothers’ organization was formed by mothers and grandmothers who met while trying to find sons and daughters abducted by agents of the military government during the Dirty War (1976 – 1983), many of whom had been tortured and killed. Three founding Mothers also disappeared. (The Argentine military admits to 9,000 still unaccounted for a civilian government commission postulated 11,000; the Mothers say closer to 30,000.)
The women gathered at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenas Aires Thursday afternoons and walked around it for half an hour, wearing white scarves to symbolize the white dove of peace. As time passed they began demanding answers from government. Where were their children?
In 1986 they split into two factions; all continue the weekly walk but for different reasons. “Founding Line” Mothers focus on legislation to help in finding remains and bringing ex-officials to justice. “Association” Mothers feel responsible to continue their children’s work and walk for the causes they died for.
- Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880) USA, women’s rights and civil rights movements
A Quaker, Lucretia attended a boarding school run by the Society of Friends, where she eventually became a teacher. Her interest in women’s rights began when she discovered that male teachers at the school were paid twice as much as the female staff. In 1811 Coffin married James Mott and she later became a Quaker minister.
The Motts moved to Philadelphia in 1821 and Lucretia quickly became known for her persuasive speeches against slavery. She was one of the first Quaker women to do abolition advocacy work. Her husband supported her activism and they often sheltered runaway slaves in their home. They refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods. In the 1830s she helped establish two anti-slavery groups.
At the International Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England, in 1840, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the two later brought about the first American women’s rights’ convention. Elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Assoc. after the Civil War, Mott began to advocate giving black Americans the right to vote. She remained until her death, a central figure in the women's movement as a peace-maker, a critical function for that period of the movement.
- Elizabeth Penashue Nitassinan, Canada, indigenous and women’s rights, resistance to military training flights over traditional lands
Penashue was born in a family of Innu hunter-trappers and moved to Sheshatshui in 1960 when the government strongly encouraged the members of her community to relocate so that they could be integrated into Canadian society by way of education and a sedentary life-style.
In 1963, she married Francis Penashue and they decided to return to their original territories for a more traditional life. However, low-level flights over their hunting and trapping territory by Canadian, English, Dutch and German pilots from the military base in Goose Bay, impeded them. Penashue became a leader in the struggle against these flights. The Canadian government had allowed up to 15,000 per year over the territory. She organized a number of peaceful protests and was arrested many times.
Penashue continues to promote a traditional life-style by walks with other members of her community during the winter season to show that the Innu are able to adapt and survive in their natural environment. She is involved in the fight for women’s aboriginal rights and for the environment.
- Adolphe Proulx (1927 – 1987) Canada, working for peace and human rights through the Catholic church, resistance to militarism, “An F-18 for Peace”
In April of 1954 Proulx was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, and in 1958 he went to Rome to study Canon Law for two years. When he was consecrated a bishop in 1965 at the age of 39 he was the youngest bishop in Canada. He was the Bishop of the Quebec Diocese of Gatineau-Hull from March 1974 his death.
Bishop Proulx was a leader in the Catholic movement for social change during a time when there was discreet pressure from the Vatican and also from within Canada to quiet the voices that called for justice and peace. He was a hard-working member of the Commission of Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, also chairing the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America.
In October of 1985 trade unionists and peace activists participated together in marches and other forms of protest across Québec on the theme of "An F-18 for Peace." They demanded that the cost of one of these fighter jets be allocated for industrial conversion and other peace projects. Bishop Proulx was a member of a committee of prominent Québecers that were selected to act as negotiators with the Federal government and to oversee the disbursement of the peace fund.
- Óscar Romero y Galdámez (1917-1980) El Salvador, protesting violent military regime in El Salvador, was assassinated
Romero was known as a conservative priest and bishop in four cities in El Salvador for 34 years. On February 23, 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. While this appointment was welcomed in government circles, many priests (especially those openly aligning with Marxism) feared that he would put the brakes on their liberation theology commitment to the poor.
On March 12, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend, Rutilio Grande, who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos, was assassinated. Romero later stated "When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought 'if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path’". He began to speak out in a radical way against the poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture taking place in the country. In 1979, the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power amidst a wave of human rights abuses. Romero spoke out against US military aid to the new government.
Archbishop Romero was shot to death on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass. It is believed that his assassins were members of the Salvadoran military death squads, including two graduates of the US-run School of the Americas. The funeral mass in San Salvador was attended by more than 250,000 mourners from all over the world.
- Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa (1941 - 1995) Nigeria, Ogoni people’s movement, environmental resistance
For hanging Saro-Wiwa on trumped-up murder charges, in reality to silence an effective critic of the brutal government, Nigeria was suspended from the British Commonwealth and condemned by vote of the UN General Assembly. Saro-Wiwa grew up in a large supportive family on the southern coast, the homeland of the Ogoni people, studied in Nigeria and was briefly an assistant professor of English (Lagos U). From 1968-73, he was an administrator and headed various departments of government in Rivers State. Dismissed, he wrote several novels, a book about the cruelly repressed Biafra rebellion, and five years of scripts for a popular TV comedy series. In 1991, he founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and campaigned internationally against ecological destruction and industrial pollution by multinational oil companies, especially Shell, accusing the Nigerian government of genocide. In January 1991, MOSOP organized peaceful marches through Ogoni territory in which over half participated (300,000). Shell stopped operating; the Nigerian military moved in. In June 1991 Saro-Wiwa was imprisoned for alleged participation in election disturbances. Freed after a month thanks to international pressure, he promptly wrote a book about his conditions in prison. In May 1994, he and 8 others were arrested for the deaths for four Ogoni elder suspected of collaborating with the military.. They were convicted and sentenced to be hung, carried out on 10 November 1995 by the military leadership despite international outrage and pleas.
- Hans Scholl (1918 - 1943) Germany, resistance to Nazis, White Rose, guillotined
Hans grew up in a family opposed to Nazi policies, and later met many like-minded soldiers, students, intellectuals and artists silenced by Nazi terror. Just one overheard sentence could lead to prison, concentration camp or execution. Hans was drafted, spent two years in a cavalry unit, then enrolled in medicine. All university students had to spend half the year in state service, Hans was a medical orderly on the Eastern Front, and became appalled by the suffering of soldiers and civilians in an indefensible, unwinnable war. At university he began the White Rose with four medical student friends, younger sister Sophie and Professor Kurt Huber, who helped him to compose six pamphlets reminding of historic German values and calling for passive resistance, that were taken by train or mailed across Germany. On 18 February Hans and Sophie were seen distributing the sixth pamphlet at their university. Within four days, they and friend Kristoph Probst had been tried for treason, convicted and guillotined. (Throughout Germany, everyone involved with the pamphlets or suspected of being supportive was arrested, most imprisoned or executed.)
- Sophia Magdalena Scholl (1921 – 1943) Germany, resistance to Nazis, White Rose, guillotined
Brave and defiant at her trial for treason, Sophie explained why the White Rose, a tiny group of university students, had risked everything to remind others of historic German values and urge passive resistance to Nazi tyranny. “Somebody, at least, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just do not dare to express themselves as we did.” Sophie and her brother Hans had been caught distributing copies of the group’s sixth pamphlet. Later everyone involved with distribution or tenuously connected to them, in Munich and other German cities, was arrested, imprisoned or executed. Hans had been the ringleader, appalled by the slaughter of soldiers and civilians on the Eastern Front, where he and other medical students had served as medical orderlies. His little sister, Sophie, insisted on helping. Bright, happy and out-going, lover of the outdoors, art and music, student of philosophy, Sophie walked calmly to the guillotine believing she was going to God. Her last words: “The sun still shines”.
- Yonatan Shapira Israel, fighter pilot who authored the Pilots Letter in 2003 refusing to fly missions over the occupied Palestinian Territories
In September of 2003, 27 Israeli pilots signed the Pilots Letter, refusing to fly missions over the occupied Palestinian Territories. Yonatan Shapira, author of the letter and one of its signers, was an officer in the Black Hawk helicopter squadron who had flown hundreds of missions over the territories as a rescue pilot in his 11 years in the Israeli air force.
The Pilots Letter caused an uproar in Israel as it was an unprecedented act by members of a revered Israeli elite, and many called the signatories traitors. The Pilots Letter led to the dismissal of its signers from the air force. “In the discussion of my dismissal,” he said, “I asked Gen. Dan Halutz if he would allow the firing of missiles from an Apache helicopter on a car carrying wanted men, if it were traveling in the streets of Tel Aviv, in the knowledge that the action would hurt innocent civilians who happened to be passing at the time.” Refusing to respond to Shapira’s ethical question, the general instead answered from the standpoint of moral relativism. Jewish actions must be evaluated from the perspective of Jewish superiority to the Arab, he said, moral and otherwise.
Since becoming a high-profile dissenter, Shapira has been giving talks not only in Israel, but in Europe and the U.S. A question he inevitably is asked is why the government has not prosecuted him and the other pilot refuseniks. Shapira believes prosecuting the pilots would be playing into their hands: a trial would give them the attention they want. “The only way they can charge us in court and send us to jail is to prove that the orders we said were illegal were legal,” he noted. “And there is no way they can justify, even in an Israeli court, that dropping bombs and missiles in civilian areas is a legal act.”
- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945 - ) Burma, Nobel Peace Prize 1991, democracy in Burma
Aung San Suu Kyi’s father was assassinated in 1947 after negotiating Burma’s independence from Britain; her mother served in the new government and became ambassador to India. Her own commitment to democracy and Ghandian nonviolence has made her an admired symbol to many, but also a threat to the ruling military junta, evidenced by 2/3 of the past 21 years spend under house arrest. She has refused offers of freedom contingent on permanent exile, which would mean abandoning the Burmese people and members of the National League for Democracy that she helped to found in 1988 after the junta seized power. She had returned in 1988 to nurse her ailing mother after many years in England, where she studied (BA Oxford, Ph.D U of London), married a British scholar of Tibetan culture and had two sons. She has spent no time with her British family since returning to Burma because the military government will deny re-entry if she visits them and has denied them entry visas to visit her, even when her husband had cancer from which he died in 1999.
- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) USA, abolitionist, author of “Civil Disobedience”
Thoreau was 16 when he attended Harvard where he took classes in rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics and science. After graduation he became part of a group of local intellectuals and writers before settling into work at his family's pencil factory. He was a philosopher of nature and its relation to the human condition when he embarked on a two-year experiment in simple living around the shores of Walden Pond.
Thoreau refused to pay poll taxes because of his opposition to the Mexican-American war and slavery. Two nights in jail left a strong impact. He delivered lectures on "The Rights and Duties of the Individual in Relation to Government" which led to his essay "Civil Disobedience", a well known argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. In 1854 he published "Walden" which became an American classic. In it he explores natural simplicity, harmony, and beauty as models for just social and cultural conditions. He was also a life-long abolitionist.
- André Trocmé (1901 – 1971) France, resistance to Nazi regime by aiding and hiding Jews in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon
Trocmé was a Protestant pastor in the French town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Trocmé and his wife Magda organized the rescue of between 3000 and 5000 Jews fleeing the deportation efforts of the Nazis.
The anti-Jewish Vichy regime became aware of these activities and authorities were sent to perform searching within the town, all of which were unsuccessful. Trocmé expressed his opinions to a minister in the Vichy government when he made an official visit to the town in the summer of 1942.
In February of 1943 Trocmé was arrested and sent to an interment camp. Trocmé was pressured for five weeks to sign a commitment to obey all government orders. He refused, and following his release, he went underground, where he was still able to keep the rescue and sanctuary efforts running smoothly.
- Nomfundo Walaza (1963 - ) South Africa, women’s issues and restoring the dignity of those who have suffered as a result of human rights violations and abuses
Walaza is the Executive Director of Desmond Tutu’s Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a clinical psychologist who has worked in the human rights field for 15 years and worked for 11 years as Exec Director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture in South Africa. She focused on empowerment and healing for victims of trauma and violence, many of whom suffered severely at the hands of the apartheid government.
Walaza is passionate about women’s issues and restoring the dignity of those who have suffered as a result of human rights violations and abuses. She is concerned about escalating violence toward the most vulnerable citizens, including children, the elderly and disabled. She travels internationally speaking about the work for truth and justice that continues.
She speaks of the determination of South Africans to use nonviolence and emphasizes the fact that for a long time South Africans had no hope that apartheid would end in their life-time, but kept up the struggle in the belief that the system of oppression would change one day.
- Lech Walesa (1943 - ) Poland, worker resistance under communist rule, Nobel Peace Prize 1983
Walesa was a member of an illegal strike committee in Gdansk Shipyard in 1970 that resulted in over 80 workers killed by riot police. He was arrested for “anti-social behaviour” and imprisoned for one year. He lost his job at the shipyard for collecting signatures for a petition to build a memorial for the killed workers, was blacklisted and could no longer find employment. In 1978 he, with others, organized the illegal Free Trade Union of Pomerania and was arrested several times for being “anti-state” but found not guilty.
In 1980, reinstated at the Gdansk Shipyard, Walesa took part in an occupational strike which was followed by strikes across Poland. He persuaded workers to organize the Strike Coordination Committee leading the general strike in Poland. The communist government signed an agreement to allow legal organization, but not unions.
In 1983 Walesa won the Nobel Peace prize. In 1989, he organized the Citizen Committee of the Chairman of Solidarity Trade Union and won parliamentary elections. By year end, he persuaded communist ally parties to form a non-communist coalition government. In 1990, Walesa won the presidential election and served the next five years as president.
- Brian Willson (1941 - ) USA, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, resistance to war and export of weapons
From 1966 to 1970 Willson served in the United States Air Force (USAF), including several months as a combat security officer in Vietnam. After leaving the USAF he became a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace.
Willson attended Law School at American University in Washington, D.C. As a trained lawyer and writer, he has documented US policy in nearly two dozen countries. Documenting the pattern of policies that he says “violate US Constitutional and international laws prohibiting aggression and war crimes,” Willson has been an educator and activist, teaching about the dangers of these policies. He has participated in lengthy fasts, actions of nonviolent civil disobedience, and tax refusal along with voluntary simplicity.
In 1987, while engaged in a protest of US weapons to Central America, an action publicized in advance, Willson and other members of a Veterans Peace Action Team were blocking the train tracks at the Concord, California Naval Weapons Station. The train crew refused to stop the train, and the veterans were injured when the train did not slow down as they expected. Willson was hit, run over, and nearly died. Ultimately, he survived but lost both legs below the knee while suffering a severe skull fracture with loss of his right frontal lobe, among other injuries. Willson continues his work for justice and peace.
- James Shaver Woodsworth (1874 – 1942) Canada, disarmament, called for Nonviolent Civil Defence
JS Woodsworth was a Methodist preacher in Manitoba. While studying at Oxford he became interested in social welfare work and about the moral values of imperialism. He had difficulty accepting Methodist dogma and its emphasis on individual salvation without considering the social context in which an individual lived. He became Secretary of the Canadian Welfare League investigating social conditions throughout the 3 prairie provinces. In 1916 he was asked to support the National Services Registration. As a pacifist, he was morally opposed to the Church being used as a vehicle of recruitment, and was fired. He resigned from his final pastorate in Gibsons Landing because of its support of the war.
He then worked as a stevedore and became involved in the labour movement. In 1921 JS was elected as the Independent Labour Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North. After the end of WWI Woodsworth insisted Canada give an unequivocal lead in disarmament and therefore, towards world peace. He questioned why an elected government, claiming to be genuinely concerned about its fullest defence, would be so afraid of seriously exploring Nonviolent Civil Defence, 'the new means of protecting our nations.' In 1932 he became the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation until 1939 when he refused to support Canada's entry into WWII. 'War is an absolute negation of anything Christian...It requires a great deal of courage to carry out our convictions-- to have peace requires both courage and sacrifice.’ He also strongly influenced Canadian social policy (e.g. social assistance and medicare).