Working a Program for Peace

Though they might not seem similar, working a 12 step program to recover from addiction and pursuing a program of peace might actually be quite similar.  I recently read an article about comedian Russell Brand’s new book “Recovery:  Freedom From Our Addictions” where he offers his version of the traditional 12 step program and how it has worked in his life.  He says, “We don’t choose between having a program and not having a program. We choose between having a conscious program and an unconscious program. When you’re not working a program consciously you’re working an unconscious program – the program of your childhood, the program of your culture, the program of your media.”


When I think about what our Pax Christi group is doing, I realize that we’re attempting to consciously work our own program, a Christian program of active nonviolence. This program stands in contrast to our culture, which offers us a subtle but constant program of violence.  Lavishing money on the military and maintaining a nuclear arsenal that could end life as we know it – these are the paths we are offered to peace and stability.  Gun ownership is not to be questioned even as one mass shooting follows another in the news cycle, creating a sad sequence death and heartache.  Our states routinely execute their citizens in the name of justice.  But where is the justice in executing those with mental illnesses, those who were underage when they committed their crimes and those with poor legal representation who may even be innocent?  


Our program of peace is not prescribed in 12 straightforward steps, but rather in the life and teachings of Jesus.  So, we meet and we talk, trying to figure out how we work this program of peace.  We pray and sometimes we vigil.  On occasion, we get together and we write postcards and letters to the governor to spare the life of a man slated for execution.  On small white cards we plead for mercy; we plead for real justice instead of death.  These may be small gestures, but necessary steps of a program to guide our feet into the way of peace.

—  Ashley 



Hiroshima AnniversaryThis past Sunday, August 6th, was a warm and rainy day in Birmingham, Alabama.  Our Pax Christi group gathered in the beautiful Japanese garden of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to mark the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by coming together in prayer.

The rain held off for our short prayer service where we read from Romans chapter 12, and prayed for those who died and for an end to nuclear weaponry.  Afterward, our PC member Hope shared with us the story of Sadako Sasaki and taught us how to make origami peace cranes.

Making peace cranes

We didn’t know that the news in the week following would be filled with talk of nuclear war.  But the coverage did not center on the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rather the press reveled in the new threats of “fire and fury”.  The media repeatedly broadcast the brazen one upsmanship of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.  This back and forth of back nuclear threats seems to have become our new normal.

Nuclear weapons should not be the playthings of leaders, jockeying for power and posturing for their respective populations.

Consider this poem:

Shadow on the Rock
by Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race now in this generation,
or we will become Shadows on the rock.

Daniel Berrigan captures the evil of nuclear weaponry.  These weapons  broadly and indiscriminately reduce life to a shadows, children of God become dark spots etched on stone.

Beyond the news cycle, beyond the bombast of world leaders, we must focus on the Truth and share it.  Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki is essential.


– This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world. –