Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

A Guide to Grassroots Peace Groups III

Wow! We are starting to get suggestions that will be added as we use these posts to update our page of peace links. Helping you keep New Years’ resolutions to be more active for peace & justice in ’09 (in a world which can certainly use your help, Gentle Readers!) has been fun, but work–and transferring this to the page of peace links will be more work, but worth it! ūüôā

II. Non-Faith Based Peace Groups

(I used to call these groups “secular,” but I have found that many Christians are confused by that term, thinking that it means that such groups are hostile to religious faith. No, they just have not organized their peace & justice group according to religious motivation–but in most cases their members include many persons of faith.)

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A. Women’s Peace Groups (Some peace groups are organized just for women. This began in the 19th C. with first-wave feminism and the struggle for women’s suffrage. Many believed that women has a special calling as peacemakers or were more naturally peaceful than men.¬† Others were simply practical: Women were denied leadership in organizations begun by men.¬† Some of these groups still have a feminist thrust to them.)

  • Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW)¬†founded in 1960 to unite women in concern for the future of the world.
  • CODE PINK: Women for Peace¬†is a women-initiated organization dedicated to stopping the Iraq war and invasion by means of nonviolent direct action campaigns.¬† The name is a rebuke to the “color coded alerts” issued by U.S. Homeland Security. Founded by Medea Benjamin of the global economic justice movement (and co-founder of Global Exchange, a fair-trade organization), CODE PINK has become known for its dramatic and fearless nonviolent confrontations of politicians in ways that don’t let them ignore the issue!
  • Global Women’s Strike¬†is an international effort to¬†achieve recognition for all caring work and to shift military expenditures to caring work, especially to women who remain the primary caregivers throughout the world.
  • Grandmothers for Peace International¬†is sometimes known as “the Raging Grannies.” It grew out of the Cold War and an effort to unite grandmothers for peace and nuclear disarmament for the sake of their grandchildren.¬† It deliberately plays on the respect given grandmothers–the media have a harder time portraying grandmothers as “radical hippies.”
  • MADRE¬†is a global network working for the human rights of women.
  • Mothers Acting Upmoving from concern to action on behalf of the world’s children.¬† Recognizes that women and children are usually the primary victims of war and militarism and, thus, works to unite and mobilize them against such–instead of having mothers of soldiers pray for their safety at the expense of other mothers.
  • WAND: Women’s Action for New Directions¬†was originally called “Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmanent,” but has broadened to other peace concerns.
  • Women in Black groups.¬† Begun in 1988, these are groups of women worldwide who stand together in protest, holding silent vigils, dressed in black.¬† The purpose of these protests is to protest the voicelessness of women during military violence, the connection between the silencing of women and the emphasis on violence (e.g. as “manly”) in many societies, mourning the victims of violence, and taking a visible stand to protest military acts, especially atrocities.¬† Women in Black began in Israel and Palestine as widows and mothers of victims decided to reach across dividing lines in solidarity rather than taking their grief out in rage against each other.¬† Many of the Women in Black groups worldwide devote a portion of their protests to focus on ending the violence in Palestine and Israel–something certainly needed vis-a-vis the Gaza strip, now.
  • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Begun in 1915, in the middle of WWI, this is the oldest and largest women’s peace group. Founded, in part, by Jane Addams, who began social work in the U.S.¬† The International¬†Secretariat is in Geneva, Switzerland with a New York office at the United Nations.¬† There are branches in 37 different nations (with more all the time).¬† This is the link to the U.S. branch.¬†(I know of WILPF primarily because 2 of the board members of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America are WILPF members.) Founding president Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 (the first U.S. woman to do so), the same year the FBI declared her “the most dangerous woman in America.” In 1946, Emily Green Balch, WILPF’s first International Secretary, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.¬† WILPF itself has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has won numerous other awards. It is a founding Non-Governmental Organization of the United Nations.

¬†¬†¬† B.¬† Veterans and Military-Related Peace Groups.¬† Oddly, or perhaps, not, some of the most passionate workers for peace have been former warriors or family of slain warriors.¬† I, myself, was converted to Christian pacifism while serving in the U.S. Army.¬† At numerous peace group gatherings, I have found surprising numbers of veterans and former soldiers–belying the media image of veterans and their families as hyper-patriotic militarists.¬† The growth of these organizations in the last few years did much to sway the views of “Middle America” away from support of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.¬† Here are a few of the better known military-related peace groups in the U.S.

  • G. I. Rights Hotline. Mostly works to help those who become conscientious objectors while in the military obtain c.o. discharges, but also works to support the rights of military members in related areas.
  • Gold Star Families for Peace. For some reason, the web link is currently down. When it is restored, I will correct this entry. Families of those killed in war are, in the U.S., given a gold star.¬† In 2004 one mother, Cindy Sheehan, realized that her son, Casey, had been recruited with lies and had died for an illegal, immoral, and unnecessary war.¬† She formed Gold Star Families for Peace (if you have had a loved one die as a result of war, especially during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, you are eligible), whose goals have been to end the occupation of Iraq, bring ALL the troops home, and support other Gold Star families.¬† Ms. Sheehan achieved international notoriety in 2005 when she camped outside President George W. Bush’s home in Crawford, TX and refused to leave until he gave her a legitimate reason for her son’s death. Supporting peace activists flocked to her side and this “peace mom” became the face and voice of the movement against the war–and also the movement to impeach Bush.¬† Sheehan retired from the peace movement after the elections of a Democratic majority in Congress in ’06 failed to end the war.
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).¬† If you are a service member or veteran (reservist or active duty) since 9/11 and oppose the war and occupation, even if you originally supported it, you can join IVAW. Currently has over 1,300 members in 56 chapters, in 48 states.¬† There are also regional chapters for Europe and Canada.
  • Military Families Speak Out.¬† The tradition is strong in the U.S. (and elsewhere) that the family members of active duty military members never publicly criticize any war their loved ones are being asked to fight. They either echo the official government propaganda or are silent.¬† MFSO boldly breaks that tradition. It is composed of military families who believe that their loved ones were pressed into dishonorable service by being sent to an illegal, immoral, and unecessary war.
  • Veterans for Peace.¬† Founded in 1985, VFP is a national organization of military veterans (and families) working together for peace and justice through nonviolence.¬† Containing male and female veterans of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939–many Americans volunteered in other national militaries to fight the takeover of Spain by the fascists); WWII; the Korean War; the Vietnam War; Gulf Wars I & II, and other conflicts.¬† Their collective experience tells them that wars are easy to start, but hard to stop and usually the “collateral damage” outweighs the benefits even when “the good guys” triumph. Therefore, out of their collective experience as veterans of such conflicts, they have determined that other means of problem solving are necessary–and struggle to help develop and implement such means.¬† They also work to reform the Veterans Affairs Admin., see that returning veterans (whether they were for or against a particular war) are given all the services and benefits of a grateful nation, to defend civil liberties that are threatened in time of war, etc. The national headquarters is in St. Louis, MO and VFP is an official NGO of the United Nations.¬† A related, but independent, organization is Australian Veterans Against War.
  • Vietnam Veterans Against War.¬† Originally VVAW was “Vietnam Veterans Against THE War” with the war in question being Vietnam.¬† It began in 1967 when 6 Vietnam veterans marched together in a peace demonstration.¬† VVAW’s most famous (former?) member is U.S. Senator (and 2004 presidential candidate) John F. Kerry (D-MA) who gave riveting testimony before Congress in the “Winter Soldier” hearings of 1973. (America had never seen a highly decorated veteran denounce the lies and propaganda being told about a war still being waged.¬† Where was THAT John Kerry when we needed him in the aftermath of 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq war–or even in the ’04 campaign?? THAT John Kerry is one I’d have worked by rear end off to get elected, rather just given tepid support as a lesser of evils.)

Since this is a long enough blog post, I will continue with other installments. Next time, I hope to cover peace groups that are organized by profession (e.g., Labor Against War; Educators for Social Responsibility; Historians Against War, etc.)  In the past, there have been racial/ethnic peace groups (probably because racial/ethnic minorities have not felt that peace groups started by whites were effectively speaking to their communities), such as Black Voices for Peace, D.C. Asians Against War Network, & Latinos for Peace.  But I cannot find these groups on the web any longer. If anyone has weblinks for active peace groups of this type, please let me know.


January 3, 2009 - Posted by | peacemaking

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