There Must Be Another Way
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LENT 2009: Dominican Call to Fast

The Iraq Coordinating Committee invites you to a Lenten Fast and Action on behalf of the 4 million refugees that are displaced as a result of the war in Iraq. While the economy at home is so much the focus of attention, do not forget that even in a strained US economy, people are suffering around the world.

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Lenten Prayer. Please stand with the ICC and pray this prayer with us.

"O Lord of peace rain peace on us, O Lord of peace, grant peace to our land.  Have mercy, O Lord, on your people and do not keep us in enmity forever."


WATCH a new photo gallery of Dominican life in Iraq

















































Ameer, a 9-year-old in northern Gaza whose father was killed from aerial fire as he tried to save his brother who had also been hit with bullets, in this undated photo. (Courtesy Judy Moore of World Vision)

Jim Barnett Jane Abell Brian Pierce Shiela Provencher
Jim Barnett, OP Jane Abell, OP Brian Pierce, OP Sheila Provencher

Fast for Peace September, 2002

In September, 2002, Jim Barnett, OP; Jane Abell, OP; Brian Pierce, OP and Sheila Provencher took on a water-only fast in Union Square, NYC. On Saturday, September 28, the four broke their fast on the front lawn of the United Nations with Carlos Azpiroz, OP, master of the Dominican Order. Moved by their public witness, Dominicans and friends around the world continued this great universal, interfaith prayer, There Must be Another Way Fast for Peace and Nonviolence, Now, the four reflect on the experience:

There Must Be Another Way
Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert)

It's become almost like a mantra for me, in so many aspects of my personal spiritual journey as well as the social—sometimes prophetic—ministry to which all preachers are called. So many challenges connected with finding the balance of contemplative and active life—as well as the challenges of living Jesus' Gospel and the Catholic Social Teaching within our country and within our Church—force one to seek “another way.”

For me, the idea began in the Friends of God Dominican Ashram in 2002. It began with frustration and anger over the increasing preparations in the U.S. for an invasion of Iraq. The frustration and anger was taken to prayer, to the contemplative roots of our Dominican preaching. What emerged was that logo, “There Must Be Another Way,” and a plan of action: to hold a public fast and prayer for peace and non-violence.

The grace began with the confession that we “embark on our fast as a way of acknowledging our need for personal and communal conversion.” We didn't claim to have the answers to the political tensions and problems, but we had to do something. So we chose prayer and fasting to seek spiritual clarity and focus, and as a way toward “another way”: the non-violent path of peace taught by Jesus Christ. We closed our covenant statement with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “To prevent the next war, we have to practice peace today.”

Our prayer and fasting did not prevent the invasion of Iraq nor the six years of horrendous destruction and death for our family in Iraq. Nonetheless some personal and communal conversion has taken place. The logo, “There Must Be Another Way” is a mantra which must be repeated and repeatedly acted upon in the face of the numerous abuses in our Church and our country today.

I invite you to join just one such action which has come from Pax Christi USA. It's a campaign entitled, IT IS TIME TO END THE TRAIL OF HATRED AND RESENTMENT and it focuses on the present plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan. It comes from serious dialog that the leadership of Pax Christi has been able to have with people in the Obama administration. Their statement claims that

change in U.S. administrations opens the possibility for a new approach to overcoming terrorism and ensuring peace and security for all nations. To continue to rely upon failed military strategies will only lead us further down the “trail of resentment and hatred.” Let this be the moment when our nation experiences a “metanoia”—a conversion—when we turn around, change direction and chart a new course. As church, as people of faith and good will, we must raise our voices and create the public groundswell that makes real change possible—here, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Palestine/Israel, and everywhere.

The full statement can be found at Pax Christi's website.
Thank you for joining this initiative.

Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert)

The Courage to Choose Another Way
Sheila Provencher Abdallah

God, give us power to rip down prisons.
God, give us power to lift the people.
God, give us courage to withstand hatred
God, give us courage not to be bitter.
God, give us power and make us fearless
God, give us power, because we need it.”

My husband Thaer and I are on a journey this Spring.  We’re visiting some families from Iraq who have resettled in Canada after more than two years in a Syrian refugee camp.  This is a homecoming for Thaer – he is the human rights activist who first organized the exodus of these families after they received death threats in Baghdad.  And he has not seen the children since he disappeared from their midst two years ago, taken from the refugee camp by secret police, deported back to Iraq.   

This song of freedom and resistance from years of apartheid in South Africa reminds me of his and their amazing courage and response to oppression in Iraq.  Thaer and these families are members of the Palestinian community in Baghdad – all of them born in Iraq but never given citizenship, passports, the right to vote or own property.  After the start of the present war, they were targeted by certain extremist Iraqi militias.  Rather than respond with violence, most decided that flight was the only option left.  Today they are scattered in countless countries from Canada to Cyprus. 

“God give us courage to withstand hatred.  God give us courage not to be bitter.”  We all face suffering.  Some face unthinkable hatred and violence.  But suffering can have more than one effect:  it can make us hard, bitter, and revengeful.  Or suffering can hollow out in us an empty space that opens up to compassion. 

When my husband describes his experience in political prison – the water torture, beatings, and starvation – he never expresses bitterness towards his captors.  He always says, “I think God allowed me to go to prison so I would see all the poor people there: women and children and people from many countries.  I went to prison so I would feel I must help them, I must end the prisons and the torture.”  He teaches me that there IS another way. 

God give us courage to choose the other way. 

Sheila Provencher Abdallah

A Thousand Human Eyes Full of Tears
Jane Abel, OP (Houston)

"Teach us Lord how to launch out into the impossible, Because behind the impossible lies Your grace and Your Presence;
We musn't fall into a vacuum;
The future is an enigma,
Our pathways are made inside the cloud,
But we want to keep giving ourselves because you are waiting us in the night
With a thousand human eyes full of tears."
fr. Luis Espinal,  Bolivian martyr

The above prayer was offered to me by Joan 0' Shanahan, OP. She sent it before I left for Iraq in the spring of 1999.  I was fortunate to have visited Iraq before the fast. The trip left an indelible mark on me, especially the children. We visited three hospitals, one of them in Sadaam City. I will never forget those visits. When I returned home, 1 began praying to know what to do. Then Jim Barnett came in to town. He told me about what he and Brian had been talking about - considering the possibility of a 30 day fast. I knew that I could not refuse. I talked with my Prioress and two other sisters whom I respected all of whom were supportive. I mention the trip because the fact that I had been there was a compelling factor. I said ··Yes".

Arlene Flaherty was a tremendous help in "preparing the way". The Dominican Sisters in New York were wonderful in their participation. Other sisters and brothers came from near and far. From the very beginning it was truly a "Dominican thing" - an event in which all participated. The flood of notes and prayers from near and far helped to sustain us along the way.
The close community the four of us formed was crucial. I could not have lasted without that support.

Here is a story and picture of a nine-year old boy in Gaza. I keep his face before me. His eyes are among those "thousand human eyes full of tears." And - I know that I can do something.

Jane Abel, OP (Houston)

Brian PierceReflection:
Yes, There IS Another Way

Brian J. Pierce, OP (St. Martin)

Last December, the Iraqi Dominican sisters who live in Rome told me the following:  “In our Maternity hospital in Baghdad – one of the few still operating in the city – there are frequently Christian women and Muslim women giving birth to babies side-by-side.  We believe that they are giving birth to the new Iraq.  That is why we stay there – in the midst of the violence – to be part of the birthing of a new country.”

And I remember thinking, this is true interreligious dialogue, interreligious praxis at its best.  And Jesus’ words came to mind:  “I thank you, Abba, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to mere children; yes, Abba, for such was your gracious will” (Lk 10:21). 

Yes, there is another way.  It is called building a new world one act of loving kindness at a time. 

1. Franz Jaegerstaetter, beheaded for his refusal to serve in the Nazi military, was beatified by the Church in 2007.  Aware of the consequences that his conscientious objection might have on his family, he decided, after much prayer, that a Christian cannot lie to God “even for the sake of one's family.”  He responded to those who begged him to reconsider: “I cannot believe that just because one has a wife and children, he [or she] is free to offend God. Did not Christ himself say 'Whoever loves father, mother or children more than me is not deserving of my kingdom'?”

Yes, there is another way.  It is called being faithful to the gospel. 

2. Jean Donovan, lay missionary, martyred in El Salvador in December 1980, wrote to a friend two weeks before being killed: “I have decided more than once to leave El Salvador and I could probably do it if it were not for the children, the poor victims wounded by this madness. Who will attend them? What kind of heart would prefer to do the reasonable thing in a sea of ones own tears and powerlessness? Not my heart, my friend; no, not mine.”

 Do we only think of doing the ‘reasonable thing?’  Peter tried to talk Jesus into doing the ‘reasonable thing’ by skirting around dangerous Jerusalem.  Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), and turning to the disciples (and to us), he simply says, “Come and follow me.”   

Yes, there is another way.  It is called LOVE. 

3. Etty Hillesum, Jewish victim of the Holocaust, wrote: “And then time and again, it soars straight from my heart – I can’t help it, that’s just the way it is, like some elementary force – the feeling that life is glorious and magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new world.  Against every new outrage and every fresh horror we shall put up one more piece of love and goodness, drawing strength from within ourselves.  We may suffer, but we must not succumb…” (An Interrupted Life, p.243).

Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd…sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away…This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 10:11-12; 15:12). 

Yes, there is another way.  It is called solidarity and friendship.  It is called LOVE. 

During this year dedicated to St. Paul, I have often reflected on the image of Ananias and Saul meeting each other in Damascus – a land that today finds itself in the midst of so many tensions and attempts at dialogue, a land of refugees and a land challenged to be an honest player in the struggle for peace in the Middle East.

When Ananias reached the house where Saul was staying, he looked at the man who had overseen the violent stoning of Stephen, and who was an enemy of the followers of Jesus.  He had every right to hate this murderer.  But obedient to Jesus, he opted for the path of nonviolence and loving engagement.  Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles that, “Ananias laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul…”  That was enough.  With those few words Ananias spoke some of the most nonviolent and healing words in the whole Bible.  He called his enemy, “my brother.”  The world has never been the same. 

Yes, there is another way.  It is the way of mercy and nonviolence.  It is to see the other as my brother and sister. 

Brian J. Pierce, OP (St. Martin)
Promoter General of the Nuns

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