Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Protest Chaplains Participated in Chicago Rally and March

Protest Chaplains of Chicago were asked to provide protective presence during Chicago’s emergency rally and march on the escalation of violence in Gaza on November 19th. Six chaplains accompanied about 1,000 people in downtown Chicago on Monday night. Included were three ordained ministers. Many of the chaplains reported that people came up to them to thank them for their participation. One of the chaplains reported de-escalating a situation with a male protestor. Another observed the police stepping in and taking care of a situation where someone assaulted an Arab family. The violent provocateur was immediately subdued by the police. All in all it was a spirited and nonviolent protest against the rising escalation of  violence in the region.  One of our chaplains was asked to speak for 2-3 minutes. Here is the full transcript of her speech.

Prayer during rally for Gaza in Federal Plaza, Chicago
I greet you today with deep pain and sorrow about the ongoing slaughter of life taking place in Gaza. It is horrendous. It is unbelievable that Israel would go down this path again with the whole world watching and blogging. And it is outrageous that our government continues to support this violent and disproportionate escalation of violence in the name of self -defense. I would like to share with you the voice and perspective of some members of the Christian community to which I belong. The first comes from a statement by Palestinian Christian and church leaders on the situation in Gaza that I received this morning. The second comes from a letter to congress from Christian religious leaders here in the U.S. and the last is a prayer from The Sabeel Center, a Palestinian Christian organization in East Jerusalem.

“In the spirit that infuses this land with sanctity and holiness and in keeping with our faith and its teachings, we appeal to all peace loving people across the world to work with their governments and fellow citizens to stop the destruction and the carnage that is going on in Gaza. The current distressing situation in the Gaza Strip is the result of the impasse in the political process and the absence of peace. We strongly believe that the cause of all this is the continuing Israeli occupation and the blockade and restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the Gaza Strip and its 1.6 million population. The Israeli policy of targeted killings, which started the current episode of fighting, is morally wrong. It also provokes strong emotions that fuel determination for revenge and furthering the endless cycle of confrontation. The scenes of innocent Palestinian children killed by bombings of family homes that are spread on the internet further promote uncontrollable emotions that are directed not simply against those responsible in Israel but also against Western and other powers and governments that support Israel in its actions in the Gaza Strip. This further increases the polarization across religious and national lines and promises spiraling violence that is the loss for each and every one of us all created in God’s image.

Some of the est. 1,000 people who marched in Chicago
in support of the people of Gaza on November 19.
Earlier this fall, in October, 15 Christian religious leaders representing U.S. churches and religious organizations signed a letter asking members of congress for an end to unconditional U.S. military aid to Israel until it complies with American law. Specifically they demand investigations into the possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which prohibits assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations or limits the use of U.S. weapons to “internal Security” or legitimate self-defense.”

Toward this end, they urge congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance and regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance. Many of these leaders, including my own, are representing their members resolutions passed at general assemblies to make military aid conditional on upholding human rights and international law. Their prophetic call has led to vicious attacks and the ending of some interfaith partnerships. However they are standing boldly in insisting that it is their moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. They recognize that a lasting peace will require this accountability and that to continue will only “serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Let me end my inviting you to join me in prayer or meditation on this prayer from the Sabeel Center followed by a short blessing from me.

“Sovereign God of justice and peace, our hearts are broken once again by this week’s escalation of violence in Gaza. Please bring about a just peace between the two sides. Lord, we mourn everyone killed in the attacks, especially lamenting the loss of the children. We cry out that the lives of these people, are not dispensable, but are valuable beyond measure. We beg you, God, to calm the senseless storm of violence, and move politicians to make real and diligent progress toward peace.”

God of freedom and justice, empower us today to stay focused on the end goal----a just peace for all of your people based on equality and freedom. Help us to stay the course, in the streets, on-line, even with our political leaders. Help us bear the burden of hope with our Palestinian sisters and brothers to share with them with what Mahmoud Darwish called “this incurable malady of hope, hope in liberation and independence.”

Actions You Can Take Now

Call for Ceasefire in Israel and Gaza

Sign the letter to Obama supporting conditional military aid to Israel at www.Obamaletter.org

Boycott Soda Stream

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Top and center photo: FJJ.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Drones in the Debate?

Protest Chaplains of Chicago would like to share with you this opportunity to tell moderator Bob Schieffer to ask a question on drones at Monday's presidential debate on October 22. There are many topics our two candidates have not discussed including drone warfare. Please go to the link listed and make your voice heard and repost this blog.

I am including the entire letter from Just Foreign Policy because it also list some new articles that have come out including from the delegation that just returned from Pakistan. 

In addition to demanding that drones be addressed in this discussion please also visit Protest Chaplains of Chicago's other blog Awake to Drones to sign onto the faith letter at http://awaketodrones.blogspot.com/ or read our reflections about the moral and ethical uses of drones.

from Just Foreign Policy

Tell moderator Bob Schieffer to ask a question on drones at Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy.

Take Action

During the last two presidential debates, the foreign policy discussion—what little there has been—has largely centered around the murder of four members of the US embassy staff in Benghazi. But while these four deaths were certainly grievous, the killing of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan from US drone strikes has so far been ignored—and that's outrageous.

But we may be able to change that. Next Monday, October 22, President Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in the final debate before election day—and the entire debate will be dedicated to foreign policy issues. Drones deserve a place in the discussion.

Tell moderator Bob Schieffer to ask a question on drones during Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy.


In the last four years, the use of unmanned drones to engage in so-called “targeted killing” has escalated dramatically. In Pakistan alone, US drone strikes have increased five fold during the Obama administration. [1] Drone campaigns have also expanded in other countries, such as Yemen and Somalia, and recent reports suggest that the administration is considering further expanding the CIA drone fleet and using drones to hunt down the terrorists involved in last month's Benghazi attack. [2] [3]

Yet, the Obama administration has failed to engage substantively on the morality, efficacy, and accuracy of US drone strikes.

Earlier this week, Just Foreign Policy's Policy Director, Robert Naiman, returned from Pakistan, where he was participating in a peace delegation against US drone strikes. While there, Robert and other members of the delegation had two meetings with the acting US ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Hoagland. During these meetings, the ambassador acknowledged the existence of an official, classified civilian death count, denied recent reports that the US has targeted rescuers via “secondary” or “follow-up” strikes, and also denied a New York Times report that the US was counting every “military-aged male” killed by a US drone strike as a “militant.” [4] [5] US officials in Washington have never engaged in this kind of public dialogue on the drone strike policy. It's time for that to change.

The American people deserve to know what the next administration has planned for US drone strike policy. Yet, the media has not been aggressive enough in challenging the administration's assertions on drones, as the public editor at the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, recently acknowledged. [6] Nor has Romney been asked a substantive question on how drones would be used in his administration in any of the numerous debates he's participated in. [7]

According to the website of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors all the presidential debates, the topics for Monday's debate will include “America's Role in the World”, “The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism”, and “Our Longest War—Afghanistan and Pakistan”. [8] Considering the fact that drones have become a serious source of tension between the US and Pakistani governments, [9] the candidates ought to be pressed on the issue of drones.

Tell Bob Schieffer to make drones an issue in Monday's foreign policy debate.


Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Megan Iorio, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy

Please support our work. Donate for a Just Foreign Policy.


1. "Covert Drone War," Data on US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/07/27/covert-drone-war/
2. “White House considers Libya drone attack,” Kimberly Dozier and Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press, October 16, 2012, http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/10/16/news/white-house-considers-libya-drone-attack/
3. "CIA seeks to expand drone fleet, officials say," Greg Miller, Washington Post, October 18, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-seeks-to-expand-drone-fleet-officials-say/2012/10/18/01149a8c-1949-11e2-bd10-5ff056538b7c_story.html
4. “Americans Press US Ambassador for End to Drone Strikes in Pakistan, and the Ambassador Responds,” Robert Naiman, Huffington Post, October 5, 2012,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/americans-press-us-ambass_b_1941919.html
5. “When a Drone Flies Over Waziristan, Does It Make a Sound?” Robert Naiman, Truthout, October 17, 2012, http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12174-when-a-drone-flies-over-waziristan-does-it-make-a-sound
6. “Questions on Drones, Unanswered Still,” Margaret Sullivan, New York Times, October 13, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/public-editor/questions-on-drones-unanswered-still.html
7. “Presidential debate: Drone question, please!” Erik Wemple, Washington Post, October 16, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/presidential-debate-drone-question-please/2012/10/16/c1adb576-17a0-11e2-9855-71f2b202721b_blog.html
8. “Moderator Announces Topics for Third Presidential Debate,” Commission on Presidential Debates, October 12, 2012, http://www.debates.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=45&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01detailtemplate=newspage&cntnt01returnid=80
9. “US drone strikes kill suspected insurgents in Pakistan,” Associated Press, July 23, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/23/drone-strikes-pakistan

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Iran: Internal Resistance and U.S. Interventions

1.     What Country in the Middle East refuses to confirm or deny that it has a nuclear weapons program and refuses to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty?
2.     What country agreed to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and has repeatedly opened its country to IAEA inspectors?

Israel. Iran. These are the answers to World Can’t Waits’ quiz, Iran Who is the Real Threat?  World Can’t Wait joined Protest Chaplains of Chicago and five other area faith and peace and justice groups to talk about Iran----its history of resistance and its long history of US interventions.  Many of these groups have been sending delegations for years like the Fellowship of Reconciliation or Voices for Creative Nonviolence while others like the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Committee on National Legislation are leading voices against sanctions and the danger of doing to Iran what we did to Iraq. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship reminded us also how peacemaking is part of their tradition and how easily we can be misled by misrepresentations of reality.

40 or so people gathered on September 20th, the eve of International Day for Peace, in the sanctuary of Wellington United Church of Christ to learn and talk about Iran.  Local Iranian and anti-war activist Saman Sepheri was our guide and discussion leader.

The evening began with a welcome from Rev. Dan Dale from Wellington which included a reminder that Wellington UCC is a JustPeace Church and that the United Church of Christ passed a resolution at its 27th General Synod in 2009 to learn more about Iran. He also reminded folks that Christian churches and faith-based organizations had signed a letter this spring against Senate Resolution 380, a resolution that paves the way for an attack on Iran.

Holding this holy conversation about a country’s right to self determination with the backdrop of protestors covered in blood and the broken mirror cross behind it was the perfect setting.

We began our time together with a ringing of the peace bowl, a crystal singing bowl and then a minute of silence in honor of International Peace Day.  The sound and the silence filled the space as we centered on our prayers for peace and the gifts and commitments we bring.

CodePink in Iran
We opened our discussion with a quick checking in about why we had come--- our questions, our concerns, our worries. Many had come to find out how to stop a war from happening, others wanted to know more about the Green Movement or other kinds of resistance movements in Iran, while still others wanted to know if Iran was making nuclear weapons with enriched uranium.  

Saman’s presentation was broken into three parts so we could stop and take questions. We wanted to have enough time throughout for questions and comments.  

It is too difficult for me to summarize all the issues we covered or the depth of where we went but a few things stand out.  “Self determination”and “No meddling” are two. Saman was insistent that we understand the right of the Iranian people to determine their country’s government and future without the “meddling” from others, in particular the U.S. Thus, he was adamantly against sanctions and any other actions that would interfere with Iranians dealing with their own issues.

He also called on us, fellow anti-war activists, to support those Iranians who are working at the grassroots level like Havaar and the feminist collective RAHA.  In fact he began his talk by reading from a recent letter from these two groups who have come under recent attack lately by others in the antiwar movement.

One of the things that also stood out for me was Saman’s passionate opposition to sanctions. He was adamant that the sanctions were doing what they were intended to do, squash the people’s movement as the country scrambles to take care of basic necessities instead of engaging in public debate about the political direction of the country. The sanctions also play into the hands of the government, he said, in providing it an excuse for its repressive policies. He made a sharp distinction for those of us who had supported sanctions against South Africa and now the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel’s policies.  The main difference is who has asked for these sanctions. It was the South African people and now the Palestinians, those who were or are suffering, who asked for these sanctions.  The Iranian people did not ask for sanctions.

With regards to the question of enriched uranium, the ingredient needed for making nuclear weapons and the chief reason given for a possible attack, he pointed to the facts in the IAEA report and the fact that Israel and US are the major nuclear powers in the world with the US being the only country to actually have dropped a nuclear bomb on another country and Israel being the country in the Middle East that has not signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. He challenged us then, US citizens, to do our own house cleaning, before pointing the finger at others.

We did not talk much about a possible war with Israel or the US and what to do if or when. I would like to suggest those of you reading this blog to go to the resource listed below here to find out what kinds of actions you can take at this time.

Tell Meet the Press that it has an obligation to challenge the false statements of Israeli leaders it invites on its program.http://www.iranfact.org/tell-mtp-challenge-false-information-on-iran/
Sign the Iran Pledge of Resistance! This is not a petition, but a pledge to take action.
“If the United States applies increased sanctions, invades, bombs, sends combat troops or drones, or otherwise significantly escalates its intervention in Iran or the region directly or through support of its allies, I pledge to join with others to engage in acts of legal protest and/or nonviolent civil disobedience to prevent or halt the death and destruction which U.S. military actions would cause to the people of Iran, the Middle East, our communities at home, and the planet itself. http://www.iranpledg.org/

Don’t Iraq Iran petition at http://www.RootsAction.org/

Code Pink Women Say No to War with Iran

International Day of Peace signals the beginning of the General Assembly where President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be present. Obama has increased crippling sanctions against Iran and still threatens the possibility of a military strike. Netanyahu has raised his war-mongering to a fever pitch in recent weeks.  Havaar points out that "Netanyahu, Obama, and Ahmadinejad may have different and often conflicting agendas, but these leaders and their governments are all threats to Iranians and to peace in the region." It is important then for all of us who are anti-war or pro solidarity to join them and  others in their call for an end to these threats to peace including ending the sanctions and saying NO to war.

If Israel or the US does strike or go to war with Iran, Protest Chaplains of Chicago will be part of the antiwar or resistance movement here for sure. Please join us if you are in Chicago or visit us on our facebook page www.facebook.com/protestchaplainschicago/ to learn more about what we are doing and thinking. If you would like to join us, we meet the third Wednesday of the month at Wellington United Church of Christ. 
To learn more about Havaar go to http://havaar.org/
To learn more about the World Can’t Wait and its campaign against a war with Iran go to http://worldcantwait.net/
For discussion about the IAE report go to Friends Committee on National Legislation http://www.fcnl.org/
For weekly reporting on Iran and Syria go to Iran Weekly by Frank Brodhead at http://warisacrime.org/content/iran-war-weekly-september-16-2012/.

Monday, August 20, 2012

To Die For

The Air and Water Show on Chicago’s Lakeshore

It was a spectacularly beautiful day at the Lakeshore---not too hot nor too cold or rainy, a perfect day for a family outing and picnic. Thousands of people came to see the show of planes racing in formation, dipping and diving. It was breath taking because it is beautiful and it is also awful because these planes are used to kill people.  Our collective presence and actions had to reflect both of these truths.

Protest Chaplains--Rev. Luis Alvarenga, Quaker Elder Mark
McGinnis, and Megan Trimm also from FOR, join Rev. Taighen
Leighton from Chicago Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and Jay Becker from
World Can't Wait in front of our prayer banner
Protest Chaplains of Chicago worked with the Chicago Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Chicago Buddhist Peace Fellowship and Wellington Ave. United Church of Christ Presente to create three different kinds or levels of engagement. The first was to provide a spiritual or protective presence for our coalition members and to the people coming to the show.  The second was to assist in the prayer making and the third was to invite and or join our Buddhists friends in meditation or prayer.

We had two teams of accompaniment. One stayed up near the drone replica and passed out flyers, encouraged people to write out prayers for peace, and engaged in dialogue while the other team went onto the beach with the Occupy Chicago group to offer a protective presence in case there was hostility from either the folks on the beach or from the police.

According to Pastor Dan Dale from Wellington who was part of the beach accompaniment team, the folks at the beach were not as hostile as they have been in years past. In fact everyone agreed that not only were they less hostile but that they also sometimes even welcoming--- some even applauded at the end of the die-in performances and thanked us for coming. But there were also rude and loud comments and drunken chants, “USA, USA, USA” and “Hippies go home” or “Leave it if you don’t like it.”

Other Chaplains worked with Megan and the FOR team in the making of peace prayers for our dove peace flag. Here is Meghan with the beginning of our collective prayer for peace.

And near the peace flag were the Buddhists meditating for peace.  Their peaceful presence reminded us all that it is not enough just to be anti-war but that we also need to learn how to be and live in peace.

I end with these words from Joe Scarry from No Drones Illinois about why we were there.

We were there to remind people that warplanes are not entertainment: they stand for death.

Late Saturday night a Occupy Chicago participant emailed to say she was glad to have been able to join in the action because her dad had been exposed to Agent Orange in the Viet Nam war. This made me realize we were there also for all our soldiers--- past and present, who are and have been put in “harm’s way” by these endless wars.

Lastly, we wish to give our deepest thanks and blessings to the many individuals and groups who supported this action, including:
Pakistan Federation of America Chicago (USA)
We also give thanks for those individuals and families who took our handouts, engaged in dialogue with us, expressed their gratitude for our presence or message, a who took our flyers about anti-recruitment and read them.  We also hold in the light those who are still struggling with how to love our country but not it’s war making ways or who don’t know how yet to be Peace Patriots.

And lastly, we give thanks to the children who were fascinated by our drone replica but also willing to listen to hear how they are used to hurt or kill people. My prayer is that a seed was planted in them, our future generation.

Here are some more pictures to give you a flavor of the day.

Here is a video of the action on the beach

For more information about Protest Chaplains of Chicago visit our facebook page for upcoming actions and articles about drones Protest Chaplains Chicago or our new blog about the dangers of drone warfare and surveillance at http://awaketodrones.blogspot.com/

See video of the Occupy Chicago die in here at http://vimeo.com/47830311/

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wake Up!

Join Us at the Air and Water Show Saturday
August 28, 12-4 PM
Every Summer Chicago has hosted an air and water show on its lovely lakeshore. Thousands of people flock to the beaches to watch the planes fly in formation, boats show off their newest devices. It’s a show for the whole family to enjoy. It’s also a show “to die for” as the masthead on our air and water show handout proclaims for the show is also a massive display of military might showcasing our newest weapons of mass destruction. It’s also a field day for military recruiters who view the crowded beach as a golden opportunity to sign up our young men and women for the armed services so they too can participate in this great show of military strength and prowess.
But there is something missing. Oh yes, death, the endgame of the purpose of these war toys. Death, destruction, injury of body, mind, and spirit are missing and so are the images of the those killed or maimed for life---the faces of the children, our collateral damage. It is for all these reasons and more that Protest Chaplains of Chicago have joined with other area anti-war activists to say “No” to this glorification of war.
Over the past two months we have participated in planning counter actions.  We have come up with a number of key roles for ourselves and other faith partners including Chicago FOR, Wellington Presente, and the Chicago Buddhist Peace Fellowship. One of our roles is to offer again a “protective presence” for our anti-war contingent especially the Occupy Chicago Movement who will be doing some kind of theater on the beach highlighting the real purpose of war and its real consequences. We will put on our bright yellow vests again and provide a protection for them from those who might be offended or angry that they are making visible and real the killing of people. We will also provide protection for those educating the public with our new drone replica from No Drones Illinois about the dangers of drone warfare and surveillance. And we will also safeguard a prayerful space for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship of Chicago to lead a meditation. In addition, we will assist FOR Chicago in creating a flag of peace prayers.
The prayer flag tradition has a long continuous history dating back to ancient Tibet, China, Persia, and India. They have been used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The Tibetian phrase is Dar Cho. “Dar” means to increase life, fortunre, health and wealth. “Cho” means all sentient beings. They are to hung with the attitude “May all beings everywhere receive benefit and find happiness.”
Protest Chaplains is honored to participate in this event with all its partners and allies and looks forward to seeing many of you there.  The Air and Water Show Peace Contingent which we are part of will gather around 11:30 near the West side of the North Ave Bridge. Look for the large MQ-9 Reaper Drone Replica.
If you have had nonviolence training, we still need peace guides, so please leave a comment with your email and someone will get back to you. Peace Guides are needed from 11:30-4:00 PM. If you would like to help out in some other way, handing out flyers or assisting with prayer flag making, also leave a comment.
Here is the writing we submitted for the handout:

The Morality or Immorality of Drone Killing
“The people of the United States would be horrified if they actually understood how many innocent people are being swept up in the maw of these wars. So people are just permitted to sleep. And its going to be very disturbing for the American people when they awake from the slumber to look out upon a world where there’s carnage everywhere that’s created by our nation with- out any legal process, without any constitutional basis and without any articulated justification.”
-       Dennis Kucinich
People across the globe who the US has deemed terrorists wake up to drones hovering overhead every day. The noise is incessant and so is the killing---targeted or suspected. Some reports indicate we are killing up to one person per day by drone attacks. So while the rest of the world re- mains awake or is on constant alert, Code Red, we in the United States, the country that now has thousands of drones (increased 40 fold since 2000) are asleep. Some might say we have been drugged by the illusion that any- thing and everything is permissible for the sake of our security (or another country’s resources). Others would say the use of drones keep our soldiers safe, out of harms way--- minimalizing causalities. Soldiers can go to work and kill from the safety of an air force base 8,000 miles away from the “enemy combatants” then return home and have dinner with the family. Still others might say, “We didn’t know.” But a growing number are begin- ning to wake up and say, “No, this is wrong. It’s against international law. It’s against our Constitution. It’s extrajudicial killing. It’s morally wrong.”
Wherever you are on this continuum we invite you to wake up and join Protest Chaplains in a theological conversation or dialogue about the use of drones for warfare and surveillance. Join us in the streets and online as we begin to question our country’s use of drones instead of due process, our President’s Kill List, the naming of all men above 18 years of ages as “enemy combatants” and the targeting of civilians including U.S. citizens. Join us as we speak out against the violation of our rights to privacy. Grounding the drones will take all of us using all the tools and strategies we have including our faith traditions and moral beliefs. Join us.
Please check out our other blog Awake to Drones to read about drone warfare and surveillance from a multi-faith perspective http://awaketodrones.blogspot.com/ or visit Protest Chaplains of Chicago face book page www.facebook.com/protestchaplainschicago for more information about drones, militarism and war, and the Occupy Movement
Also check out

Pakistan Federation of America Chicago (USA)
Said Khan khsa5@aol.com

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our Dark Beacon: Prayer Vigil for Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Water Tower Monument
Chicago, Illinois

August 5, 2012, 6:15 PM
(Corresponds to 8:15 AM in Japan, August 6th, the exact time of the first bomb and the time of most commemoration services.)

To remember the past
is to commit oneself to the future.
To remember Hiroshima
is to abhor nuclear war.

Pope Paul II


Ringing of singing bowl twice (one for the bereaved families and one for the children)

Welcome and Opening Words by Joe Scarry from No Drones Network and Rev. Loren McGrail from Protest Chaplains of Chicago

O God, tender and just
the names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
cut through our denial
that we are capable of destroying the earth
and all that dwell therein.
Forgive us---
and help us always to remember.
We must remember because this must never happen again.
We must remember because you would have us live
in harmony with each other,
seeing the joy of your creation in our
sisters and brothers.
Holy God, God of all ages,
lead us from death to life,
to the stockpiling of hope and possibilities, and of love
rather than the stockpiling of weapons, or of stones to throw,
or of hate.

Opening Ritual

(Lighting first candle and placing it in the fountain) Sixty-seven years ago tonight, morning in Japan, a single B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. This incredible blast destroyed most of the city and killed over 60,000 people almost immediately. Another 80,000 more died in subsequent months and years from the deadly radiation.

(Lighting second candle and placing it in the fountain) Three days later, another B-29 dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing about 20,000 people almost immediately and about 60,000 more in subsequent months and years from radiation.

From Mayor Matsui Kazumi’s Peace Declaration (2011)

“The time has come for the rest of us to learn from all the hibakusha and what they experienced and their desire for peace…

This description is from a woman who was sixteen at the time: “My forty-kilogram body was blown seven meters by the blast, and I was knocked out. When I came to, it was pitch black and utterly silent. In that soundless world, I thought I was the only one left. I was naked except for some rags around my hips. The skin on my left arm had peeled off in five-centimeter strips that were all curled up. My right arm was sort of whitish.

Putting my hands to my face, I found my right cheek quite rough while my left cheek was all slimy…Suddenly I heard lots of voices crying and screaming, ‘Help!’ ‘Mommy, help!’ Turning to a voice nearby I said, ‘I’ll help you.’ I tried to move in that direction but my body was so heavy. I did manage to move enough to save one young child, but with no skin on my hands, I was unable to help any more…’I’m really sorry…”

Now, we must communicate what we have learned to future generations and the rest of the world. Through this Peace Declaration, I would like to communicate the hibakusha experience and desire for peace to each and every person on this planet. Hiroshima will pour everything we have into working, along with Nagasaki, to expand Mayors for Peace such that all cities, those places around the world where people gather, will strive together to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020…

The accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the ongoing threat of radiation have generated tremendous anxiety among those in the affected areas and many others. The trust the Japanese people once had in nuclear power has been shattered. From the common admonition that “nuclear energy and humankind cannot coexist,” some seek to abandon nuclear power altogether.

Others advocate extremely strict control of nuclear power and increase utilization of renewable energy…

Message From Hiroshima

Dear all,

We appreciate very much the fact that you are holding a special gathering commemorating the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima on August 6.

The nightmarish days following the Tsunami had nearly every person in Japan filled with fear of truly catastrophic scenarios, and actually the situation surrounding the Fukushima Nuclear Plants still remains very precarious and requires utmost caution.

Although one of the nuclear plants has been restarted, the mass demonstration of anger at the government’s decision is becoming more and more visible and intense. We hope these rising waves against nuclear power will be united around the globe so that we can advance steady steps toward creating a nuclear-free way of life.

On August 6 in Hiroshima, we are going to hold, beside many other events and conferences, the 9th NO DU gathering; this year we aim to draw people's attention to the fact that next March will mark the 10th anniversary of the start of Iraq War by announcing that we will hold a commemorative conference in Tokyo around mid-March next year in order to call into question again the military use of nuclear waste, that is, DU weapons, as a wedge problem relating to the whole nuclear cycle.

We hope you will join us in such reflection, too, and we wish you great success in your activities on August 6 and further on.

With friendship and solidarity,
Kazashi Nobuo
Director, International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) Hiroshima Office

Song: This is My Song

Excerpts from Blessing the Bombs, a speech by Father George Zabelka

“The ethics of mass butchery cannot be found in the teachings of Jesus… What the world needs is a grouping of Christians that will stand up and pay up with Jesus Christ. What the world needs is Christians who, will proclaim: the follower of Christ cannot participate in mass slaughter. He or she must love as Christ loved, live as Christ lived and, if necessary, die as Christ died, loving ones enemies…

To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and a priest. Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in and to a world and a Christian Church that has asked for it---that has prepared the moral consciousness of humanity to do and justify the unthinkable…

As an Air Force chaplain, I painted a machine gun in the loving hands of the nonviolent Jesus and then handed this perverse picture to the world as truth. I sang, “Praise the Lord” and passed the ammunition…As Catholic Chaplain for the 509th composite Group, I was the final channel that communicated this fraudulent image of Christ to the crews of the Enola Gay and the Boxcar...”

Excerpts from The Drone Summit, the Lunchbox and the Invisibility of Charred Children by Hugh Gusterson

I kept thinking about the lunchbox.

The lunchbox belonged to a schoolgirl in Hiroshima. Her body was never found, but the rice and peas in her lunchbox were carbonized by the atomic bomb. The lunchbox, turned into an exhibition piece, became, in the words of historian Peter Stearns, "an intensely human atomic bomb icon."

The Smithsonian museum's plans to exhibit the lunchbox as part of its 1995 exhibit for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II enraged military veterans and conservative pundits, who eventually forced the exhibit's cancellation.

Everyone knows, in the abstract at least, that the atom bomb killed thousands of children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But any visual representation of this fact - even if done obliquely, through a lunchbox, rather than through actual pictures of charred children - was deemed out-of-bounds by defenders of the bombing.

Today, we must still make an enormous effort to bring forward visual representations of the victims of U.S. attacks, such as in the remote borderlands of Pakistan. Brave activists like the Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights -- a Pakistani lawyer who represents civilian victims of US drone strikes in Waziristan (a tribal area on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan) -- are making sure this happens.

In Japan after World War II, the US occupying authorities made it illegal for Japanese citizens to own any pictures of the aftermath of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. In Japan, Akbar would have been locked up by General MacArthur.

Excerpt from The Drone and the Bomb by Ed Kinane

“The lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki belong always before us. The agony of those two cities must remain our dark beacon.

Hiroshima/Nagasaki wasn’t so much about targets as about audiences. We---or rather, the very highest reaches of the U.S. government---annihilated a couple hundred thousand nameless, unarmed, undefended human beings to warn the world: “Don’t mess with us; we run things now…”

Afghanistan/Pakistan/Yemen echo Hiroshima/Nagasaki. With its new cutting edge technology, the Pentagon still trots out the old myth: the Reaper drone is all about “saving our boys’ lives.”

And Bomb-like, the Reaper proclaims: “If you defy us, wherever you are, we will hunt you down and kill you.” Déjà vu.

Like Japan’s hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, the Reaper’s civilian casualties in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Yemen fail to matter. Few ask: What’s the human cost? What’s the blowback?”

Excerpt from Twilight of the Bomb a speech prepared by Jay Kvale

“This week an international conference on nuclear disarmament is being held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to promote reductions in arsenals, given impetus by the stories of some of the last survivors of the bombings.

In addition to actual warheads, the problem of securing loose nuclear materials is also being addressed since 1,600 tons of enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium, enough to make tens of thousands of bombs, are still scattered around, mostly in the former Soviet Union…

Teams of specialists expect to have more than 80% of loose nuclear material from the world’s 129 research reactors secured by 2014…The Non-Proliferation Treaty has limited the number of nations with nuclear weapons to nine.”

Song: Lead Us From Death to Life (World Peace Prayer)

Litany of Remembrance

We remember each child born since the dawn of the Nuclear Age, the miracle and sacredness of each living being.

We remember the image of the first mushroom cloud of the Trinity atomic test rising above the earth in New Mexico.

We remember the words of Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, “I have become death, the Destroyer of Worlds.”

We will remember “ Little Boy” and “Fat Man”---the bombs that destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th, 1945.

We remember the 300,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who died as a result of the atomic bombs. May they rest in peace.

Sixty-seven years, the people of the earth remember the terrible destructive power and violence latent within us and made manifest in the bomb.

We will meet this power of destruction by drawing on the rich sources of our human and spiritual traditions and the deep wells of faith, beauty, humor, and creativity of the human spirit in order to nourish a culture of nonviolence and peace.

We will remember the cost to all life of our commitment to death.

We will remember the indigenous people, on whose land we mined for uranium, tested our nuclear weapons, and now fill our nuclear waste.

We will remember the plants and animals of the earth, whose waters, soil, and air we contaminate in the name of “security.”

We will remember our children and grandchildren and all beings of the future whose toxic radioactive inheritance we cannot keep from them.

We will remember our nuclear history so that we will not repeat it.

Closing Ritual

Children at the Yamazato elementary school in Nagasaki gather to commemorate the 1,300 students who were killed when the atomic bomb fell on their city. As part of their ceremony, they pour water on a stone monument symbolically quenching the thirst of the bomb’s victims and offering a prayer for their souls.

Tonight, we gather at this fountain in front of Chicago’s Water Tower, to remember not only those students but also all the people killed by these atomic bombs, all the civilians killed by our new drone weapons; we remember and pray for all their souls. You are invited to put your hands in the water---let it pour through your fingers in memory of all those whose thirst could not be quenched. In the fountain, you will also find some stones. You are invited to take one as a remembrance of these lives, of this day and your commitment to work for a nuclear free world and peace.

Liturgy for First Annual Prayer Vigil for Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Our Dark Beacon was created by Rev. Loren McGrail and Joe Scarry.

For more information on this service or other anti-war or militarism information or events contact:

Rev. Loren McGrail at lorenmcgrail [at] gmail.com or visit Protest Chaplains of Chicago on Facebook or go to Awake to Drones for writings on drone warfare and surveillance by area faith leaders.

Joe Scarry at jtscarry [at] yahoo.com for information on the No Drones Network.


Cover Image by Laurence Hyde: woodcut print from the novel Southern Cross, a book about atomic testing in the Pacific

from Christian Prayer by Rev. Loey Powell, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ.

Excerpts from Mayor Matsui Kazumi’s Peace Declaration (2011).

Message from Hiroshima: Kazashi Nobuo, Director, International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) Hiroshima Office.

Excerpts from The Drone Summit, the Lunchbox and the Invisibility of Charred Children by Hugh Gusterson at Truthout | Op-Ed.

Excerpts from Blessing the Bombs, a speech by Father George Zabelka, Catholic Chaplain for the 509th Composite Group, the atomic crew. Speech was given at Pax Christi conference in August 1985.

Excerpts from The Drone and the Bomb by Ed Kinane, an anti-militarism activist on Fellowship of Reconciliation’s website July 28, 2012.

Excerpts from Twilight of the Bomb a speech prepared by Jay Kvale for Hiroshima Commemoration ceremony at Lake Harriet Peace Garden in Minneapolis, August 6, 2012. Published on War is Crime.org.

Litany of Remembrance adapted from Pax Christi, St. Joseph’s Watford way, Hendon, London

Photograph of the Closing Ritual at the Chicago Water Tower, August 5, 2012, by Meghan Trimm, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Chicago