Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Hokey Pokey and other strategies for PEACE

I've included this (word for word) in my blog because it's a fascinating read (reflections of nonviolent direct action)... here's the direct link for more (including pictures):http://www.simonreeves.blogspot.com/



ARRESTED FOR PEACE - Personal Reflections of Nonviolent Direct Action – Samuel Hill 5
This reflection focuses on the action in which I was involved. The entire week was full of peaceful prayer vigils, spectacular marches, protests at gates, street dramas, public meetings, art shows, community meals, an interactive Peace Embassy in the Plaza and so on.

After years of discipleship and following the way of a radical Jesus / After so many rallies and marches in opposition to war with my social justice comrades / After months of specific preparation, awareness raising, education, non-violent training, fundraising, planning meetings, media releases and lobbying of Parliamentarians in relation to Talisman Sabre War Games – I found myself sitting in the Rockhampton Police Watchhouse, after having being arrested for living out an alternative to war – for playing a peaceful game of Frisbee on beautiful Shoalwater Bay, located on the Great Barrier Reef that has been given permission by the Australian Government to be destroyed in order to practice and prepare for killing of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world.


Civil Disobedience: It had come time to engage in civil disobedience. It had come time to break an unjust law. For a nation living in mostly apathy or in a space of ‘what can I do’, this was one of the most significant and empowering act of democracy that I have ever engaged in – let alone extremely spiritual.Our ActionI was part of an affinity group of 5 Christians Activists. On Thursday 21st July we crossed the line and unlawfully entered Shoalwater Bay Military Base. Beginning with a 5.30am prayer meeting, we walked 2.5 hours through the rain and bush, to the rumbling sounds of war machines on the horizon and the imminent expectation of being discovered. We carried a peace flag reclaiming the land, a letter for the US and Australian Major General (see attached) a Frisbee and a belief that another world was possible.Samuel Hill AirbaseOur destination was Samuel Hill Airbase, a key logistical centre for the biggest war games in Australia’s history. While other affinity groups aimed to stay undetected for as long as possible to stop the war games, our affinity group aimed to deliberately walk right up to the main commanders to ask them to turn around and pursue life not death, creation not destruction as the way to a peaceful future. We never expected to even make it onto the restricted area, let alone as far as the main Airbase. However, a series of near miracles led us right to the airstrip, where we were to walk down the middle of Samuel Hill Airbase and play Frisbee with the soldiers. Walking down that airstrip will be something I will not forgot for the rest of my life. Not only were we awe-struck that we’d gotten this far, but for the first time in our lives we believed that ‘ordinary people’ like us with a simple Faith can live out our beliefs with no fear and confront the powers that seemingly shape this world in ways we do not want. I felt a deep connection with Jesus as we walked down the tarmac, knowing something inside me had changed forever as I deliberately broke the law to illustrate a higher law as Jesus had done many a time – the law of love for one another.


Frisbee on the Tarmac: There was something also deeply significant as we played a peaceful game of Frisbee in the middle of their war games. And something ironic about watching a harmless Frisbee fly through the air over the tarmac, where other flying objects, made for death and destruction fly in and out preparing to do the worst.


Dialogue with the Troops: Our interactions with the troops were a highlight. We had the privilege of spending 1.5 hours playing Frisbee, drinking coffee, eating, sharing stories and challenging one another while the QLD police made their way to arrest us. Although, amusingly we walked in on them watching Team America, which they were slightly embarrassed about. It was like a social event, as the base was shut down and all the other soldiers came over to see the commotion. The 5 of us mingled, chatting with about 30 troops. I spoke with one guy who shared his Iraqi memories with me. He spoke of the use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq and his exposure to this deadly weapon. Another soldiers read our media statements (see attached) and we asked them to consider their vocation as we expressed worry for their safety. We talked about how to bring about peace, and of the most fulfilling role they all experienced in the military – the building of infrastructure and helping people. We applauded their courage, bravery and desire to do good, but we also challenged the method of murder by which they sought peace.


The Arrest: And so, we said our farewells as the QLD police speed us away, commenting that we were having too much fun. As we departed, we watched the tanks and soldiers in combat stop their games as we were taken through the base, and the fighter jets roared overhead…and it was still raining – my socks were very very wet.We were charged with Trespass on Commonwealth land – a very minor offence said the officers. A small sacrifice for following Jesus’ way. So small, that 40 more people of all different faiths were to do the very same thing after us with 20 or so getting charged (including one guy, for doing the hokey pokey across the line whilst being read his rights). Our trial date is 2nd August (mention) and will require us to travel back to Yeppoon QLD (If you would like to support us in any way we would be highly appreciative). Measurable ResultsAside from the spiritual impact and a personal obedience of living out a way of peace by crossing the line – what did we achieve? A lot, and not much at the same time.


Some Sample headlines across Australia, from Yeppoon, to Doveton, from Perth to Brisbane read :
Bomb Tests Opposed
Activists Play Peace Games with Captors After Arrest
Christian Activists Infiltrate War Games
Protestors Raise Stakes in War Games

While channels such as 9,10 and SBS showed short stories. Our action also caused the military to changes its stance of denial that 7 of our friends, including 66year-old grandmother June were camping within the base. While, the conversation went all the way to Parliament House where Brendan Nelson was questioned about why the military were continuing the live fire while civilians were in the base.Our actions helped inspire and give hope to the locals, who thanked us profusely for our sacrifice. Yet, they are the hero’s of this story. Long-term campaigners, who will continue to live in the area, as the bombs fall, their houses shudder and windows shatter, while they continue living in the shadow of a likely target, while the testing of new weapons continue, while nuclear warships and nuclear submarines circle their waters, while the denial of the use of depleted uranium continues, while the environment is destroyed and dangerous chemicals infiltrate their water supply and lands. While the Darumbol people’s land, their ancestors and lives continue to be destroyed. The people’s vision – that the land be returned to the Durmbol people and become a place of peace once again.

In a time where countries like Australia and the US have lifted the ante for war – Peace Convergence 2007 and our actions has lifted the ante for Peace. I urge us all to do the same. In an age of perpetual war, in an age of 30,000 nuclear weapons, its Nonviolence or Nonexistence. We can abolish war.

5 comments:

Sarah Williams said...

Hey Danielle,
Just visited your site after meeting you at Basketball the other night in Box Hill. I was one of the 5 who walked down the tarmac with Simon & am so glad the story is getting out there of the injustices in Shoalwater Bay, QLD. Looking forward to catching up with you a bit more at the Surrender conference this weekend and in Doveton.
Bless ya heaps, Sarah ;O)

aaron said...

Being silly and playing is one of the best offenses against the offense of violence. Jesus advocates just this, in a way, when he instructs people to give up their tunic along with their coat if they are being sued. These were poor people who would have nothing left, and so he advises them to go the whole way and walk out of the court naked, bringing great shame to the person suing them for their coat.

We should all learn a little more about holy pranking.

Grace,

aaron

Anonymous said...

There is injustice all around us in many and varied forms. Surely we are not advocating that young people confront injustice by breaking the law. I fail to understand what breaking the law achieves. Perhaps a more approriate way to respond to this would be to protest at the entrance to the facility or lobby government at a high level.

Sarah Williams said...

I was interested to read what anonymous wrote. I understand where you are coming from but would like to ask the question - Do you not think we have done that already?
I have written numerous letters to many government members on a local and national scale. Of all the letters I wrote I received one back from the Australian Greens. I have gone on many protests down the streets of Melbourne and spent many hours outside the Shoalwater Bay facility just to be met with blank faces and lies about sovereignty. So I looked into this whole non-violence movement and realised it can be effective for social change. Just look at the civil rights movement!!! I am not about to get arrested for just any cause but believe something greater happened that day when we went onto the base. I got to have many conversations I did not get to have e.g. We talked to a soldier about what he saw in his time in Iraq. He mentioned he saw depleted uranium used in villages over there and the destruction it causes to the locals health and other soldiers. Many other conversations happened to this nature. We were able to offer an alternative and practice for peace instead of violence by playing frisbee. It's worth looking into! Give peace a chance!

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