This coming weekend, is Veteran’s Day weekend, a time when the country honors the veterans who have served in the military and fought in our country’s wars. When I was a Baptist pastor, I could never get past this weekend without having someone in the congregation (not me) ask all the vets to stand up and be honored for “defending our freedom.” Now I realize that this kind of rhetoric is about as central to the American psyche as hot dogs and apple pie. I don’t doubt the vets’ sincerity or their courage, but I think they were and are often misled and misguided, as evidenced by the immoral wars we have fought over the last several decades, including the one we are in now.
As a pacifist, I want to ask for equal time for all those folks (many who were vilified) for their tireless efforts to work for peace in a war-mongering world. So I declare (for myself and anyone else who would like to join me!) this weekend as a Peace Veteran’s Day and put forth a few of my favorites to be honored for their work for peace through the years.
John Woolman– a Quaker in the 18th century who spent 20 years convincing his fellow Quakers to free their slaves
Elijah Lovejoy – a Presbyterian journalist who was killed by a mob in St. Louis for his opposition to slavery prior to the Civil War.
AJ Muste – a labor organizer and pacifist in the early 20th century
Mahatma Gandhi – a natural choice – the one who gave us satygraha (soul-force)
Martin Luther King Jr. – another natural choice, the one who tied satygraha to the ethic of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount and gave us the “dream”
Dorothy Day – the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement
Jimmy Carter – a tireless worker for peace in the public sphere and a man who was consistent in his search for peace even when he was considered “weak”
Dan Buttry – a friend and mediator throughout the world who has worked to bring reconciliation in Burma, Northeast India, and many other places in the world
Arthur Rouner – my pastor growing up who retired to start a reconciliation ministry has worked inmany places including India and Rwanda
Daniel Berrigan – a leader in the anti-Vietnam War movement
Clarence Jordan –founder of Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia (which influenced Jimmy Carter) and a leader in racial reconciliation
Elias Chacour – Palestinian priest seeking to bring Jews, Christians and Muslims together in dialogue
Desmond Tutu – a leader in the South African reconciliation movement
Paulo Freire– Brazilian educator who taught campesinos to read the word and the world simultaneously.
Myles Horton –founder of Highlander Research and Education Center, a place that has trained social activists in labor, civil rights, environmental causes and immigrant rights for 50 years.
The list goes on. This list is neither exhaustive nor complete; there are many more tha could be added. Feel free to add your own. These are a few of my peace heroes, veterans of the peace cause. Let us honor them in our thoughts, but more so by following their example.