“41 percent of children in America live in poverty and four trillion dollars paid for war, is the greatest obscenity of our day. And God weeps, God weeps for what God's children are doing!” -Rev. Dr. George Regas leading up to his arrest, October 7, 2011.
For over a decade now, we have only heard deafening silence when it comes to an honest assessment of what has transpired throughout the Middle East, but in particular in Afghanistan and Iraq. Raised Catholic, I learned that the only path toward atonement is through honesty, truth and action – all conspicuously missing from American society and sadly missing especially from many American Christians who prefer to adorn their “Jesus” with gun belts and M16s rather than olive branches. The right-wing Jesus continues to dominate the airwaves, Congress and the White House, further enabling the American war machine to consume our nation's wealth.
Roman Catholic Priest Chris Ponnet.
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In late August, well before Occupy Wall Street began, I was contacted out of the blue by the Program Director for Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) Andy Griggs. They were looking for a documentarian to cover a series of events they were planning marking the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the organization's inception. Although the money was small, I didn't hesitate to take the gig.
ICUJP was initiated by Rev. Dr. George Regas of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, as an interfaith call for restraint, wisdom and spiritual awakening among fellow Americans in response to the 9/11 attacks. Regas, himself a longtime peace and anti-nuclear activist and advocate for interfaith dialogue, anticipated the Bush administration's response and was compelled to act according to his conscience. The result was the creation of an organization that quickly formed part of the foundation of a new anti-war movement in the United States.
After ICUJP Chair Stephen Rohde announced the organization's planned act of civil disobedience in front of the Federal Building in Downtown Los Angeles on October 7 – the tenth anniversary of America's attack on one of the poorest nations on earth, Afghanistan – I began documenting their meticulous preparations. The October 7 action was hardly massive in terms of the number of people who attended, but in light of the organization's mission, contrasted with the fact that dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers were ordered to arrest 14 clergy and elderly dissenters for committing acts of peace, it was emblematic of all that is right and wrong in America.
What is most striking about the group is the age of its members – few of them are under 50 – and their unwavering commitment to peace. Their experience and wisdom in the “art and soul” of dissent will undoubtedly serve new generations of peace activists extremely well as the “Occupy” movement gathers momentum nationwide.
Arrested for Peace, Part 1Arrested for Peace, Part 2