An opportunity to work for peace

How seriously do we take Jesus’ call to be peacemakers?

Here is an opportunity to stand in the way of warmaking and say ‘yes’ with your life to the God of peace.

Operation Talisman Sabre is a series of joint military exercises taking place July 6-25 2009, involving almost 30,000 Australian and US troops across 8 areas in Australia engaged in live fire and invasion training. The highest concentration of troops is in Shoalwater Bay Training Area, a pristine wilderness area on the central Queensland coast. People from around Australia are coming together to say ‘no’ to this practicing for war, and yes to practicing for peace.

Here’s how you can get involved at whatever level you feel comfortable (or challenged!):

* Come to planning meetings in your own state
No matter where you are, we can probably hook you up (especially in Melbourne or Brisbane) with the details of regular meetings. This is one way to see what’s already happening and whether there’s a role you’d like to take.

* Awareness raising around your capital city and solidarity actions
We need people who will be in the cities and towns during the exercises to raise awareness of what is happening in Shoalwater Bay. It may mean a vigil, a petition, or just talking to family and friends, but get together with a group and make it fun.

* Participate in nonviolence trainings
There will be at least two trainings (probably more) run in Melbourne in the lead-up to the games so that people can be as fully prepared as possible. It will also give you a chance to get to know some people who might be going up, and to test the waters of what kind of actions you might take around where you live or at Shoalwater Bay itself.

* Come up to Peace Convergence in Shoalwater Bay
Plan to take some annual leave or RDOs and join the peace convergence. The festivities kick off with the C2C (Committed to Change) Festival in nearby Byfield. The main gathering weekend will be July 10th-12th, but people will be present for the whole three weeks of the exercises (July 6-25). See the Peace Convergence website for more details.

* Consider taking direct action
It is likely that there will be groups of people who will take direct action to nonviolently stop the exercises or otherwise nonviolently resist them, some of whom will take actions risking arrest and some of whom won’t risk arrest. Everyone will have the opportunity to be trained and fully prepared beforehand.

Such people also need the support of teams of people who are prepared to do all the necessary logistical work (picking up and dropping off, legals, prayer, personal support), so even if you don’t want to risk arrest yourself you can still play a role in helping those who do. It would be helpful to start forming affinity groups (there’s a good definition of affinity groups here) soon.

As my good friend Fr. John Dear says, “Nobody has to do everything for peace and justice but everybody’s gotta do something!” So I encourage you to prayerfully discern what role you might take towards a more actively nonviolent life.

Please pass this on to your own networks and keep spreading the word!