Palm Sunday evening, April 13th, brought the Reverend John Dear to Medaille College for “The Nonviolent Life,” the seventh annual fundraising event for the SSJ Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence. His passionate, powerful and at times humorous presentation focused on his own life’s journey as a person of nonviolence, and how we can join him in working for a more nonviolent world. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once told John about the work for peace, “Keep on! Every day!” John took frequent opportunities to remind us that Sister Karen lived that life of unwavering commitment to peace and nonviolence.
As put forth in his latest book The Nonviolent Life, John explained that the life of nonviolence requires three simultaneous attributes: being nonviolent toward ourselves; being nonviolent to all people, all creatures, and all creation; and joining the global grassroots movement of nonviolence. He stressed that we have to be relearning and practicing nonviolence continually because there is so much violence surrounding us, particularly in the global conflicts that the United States has perpetuated. In his travels around the world, John visited Iraq where he found children mystified by our country’s aggression. In Afghanistan, young girls surrounded him singing “We Shall Overcome” in their native language.
The occasion of Palm Sunday brought particular meaning for us as John elucidated the gospel of nonviolence. As foretold by the prophet Zechariah, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey demonstrated his humility and nonviolent spirit in stark contrast to the Roman soldiers and their weapons. John used the occasion of Jesus turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple to demonstrate that Jesus was a nonviolent activist. Nonviolence must not be passive in the face of injustice.
A special part of the event was the presence of members of the Buffalo Peacemakers Gang Intervention and Outreach Program. John drew parallels between violence in the inner city and the violence of wars around the world where domination and abuse lead to poverty and violence as a way of life. Supervising Peacemaker Pastor James Giles presented John with a Buffalo Peacemakers t-shirt with gratitude for the inspiration to continue working on the streets of Buffalo. Pastor Giles assured John that the Peacemakers will be praying for him.
Sister Jean Klimczak presented John with the book Peaceprints: Sister Karen’s Paths to Nonviolence after which there was a time for questions and answers. While John was signing his book for those who purchased it, a reception with beautifully presented food gave an opportunity for people to fellowship together and share how meaningful the event was for them.
Our annual fundraising event was a success in every way!