Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, a time for radical conversion, renewal and transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel." (Mk. 1:15) Living in the U.S. empire, which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," we need to heed Jesus' proclamation now more than ever.
We live in a war making empire, where war is being waged indiscriminately in order to control and acquire resources. The U.S. continues to wage an unrelenting war in Afghanistan, maintains an illegal military occupation presence in Iraq following twenty years of bombings and sanctions, and has increased its military intervention in Pakistan and Yemen. The U.S. also continues to provide military and economic support to Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestine. Corporate, military and political powers are also waging a war against the poor. War, economic exploitation, and global warming claim countless lives daily. The victims cry out for justice. The earth groans in travail.
The purpose of this witness is to call for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our society, and our churches to the Gospel way of justice, nonviolence and a reverence for all life and creation. As we stand here in front of the White House, we call for an immediate end to the sinful wars being carried out in our name. We call for reparations for Iraq and Afghanistan; for total disarmament; the abolition of all nuclear and conventional weapons; an end to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; an end to torture and the closing of Guantanamo and Bagram military prisons and other military torture training centers like the SOA/WHJNSEC; and an end to AFRICOM and the U.S. militarization of Africa. We call, too, for the eradication of poverty; for universal health care for all; for a just economic order; for climate justice, and for justice for all immigrants. We call for the proposed FY 2012 military budget of $671 billion to be converted to meet urgent human needs. And we call on Mr. Obama to scrap a proposed five-year request of nearly $65 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise.
As historic political changes are occurring in North Africa, in the Middle East and elsewhere, let us take to heart and act on the following words of Dr. King: "These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born...We in the West must support these revolutions...Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when 'every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.'"
Please vigil with the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and other peacemakers at the White House during the Fridays of Lent from 12:00-1:00 p.m. This vigil is sponsored by Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi Metro DC- Baltimore, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Jonah House, Christian Peace Witness, TASSC, and Witness Against Torture.