- Peace Garden: Building the Beloved Community

Building the Beloved Community

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I was so happy to be a small part of this declaration - a very small part but a part.

[The Declaration below was completed on April 2. It was read for the first time in Riverside Church, New York, on April 4 by Kelley Ogden, of Houston, Texas, the final consensus leader of the Peace Not Poverty Write-In.]

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Thirty-eight years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us of those moments in life where silence is betrayal. Our collective conscience tells us now is the time to speak. Today we walk in the footsteps of Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, Fred Korematsu, and countless others who have walked this road before. We follow their footsteps along a path of moral evolution so we may forever change the way we see ourselves and those with whom we share this earth.

War poisons the moral fiber of every individual and rips the intricate fabric of life. As a nation, our core values are peace and non aggression towards other sovereign states. The war in Iraq, however, violates this principle of non-aggression for the Iraq war is a war of choice. We did not engage in diplomacy, but rather, bullying. Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction and Iraq did not invade or attack our country. It is painful to face this nation’s arrogant and brutish tactics but our conscience tells us that we must end this war.

The war in Iraq violates law and perverts our sense of justice. We can no longer be viewed as an impartial arbitrator of disputes, but as a biased proponent of our own self interest. We have lost the moral high ground for condemning the aggression of others. Our compassion and care for our fellow man has been twisted and warped into intolerance, hatred, and bigotry. The war in Iraq was born from the curtailing of freedoms and liberties that our founding fathers, and those like Dr. King, worked so hard to secure. This war promotes fiscal insanity for us and future generations and it narrows and degrades our soul. It is a cancer that, if left unchecked, will only spread. Our conscience tells us that now is the time for action, before the war destroys all that we hold dear. We must speak so that our families, our children, our loved ones, and our nation are not lost in a miasma of fear, anger, and retribution. We must end this war.

First, we must cease all combat operations. Troops should be withdrawn on an orderly timetable, with only a small portion remaining to assist in the rebuilding efforts. To the extent that troops are necessary to maintain order, peacekeeping activities should be turned over to the UN and the international community.

Second, we must dismantle our military bases, which only serve to remind the Iraqi people of our presence. We have done enough damage and must remove the vestiges of this transgression.

Third, we must use all unallocated monies to fund the rebuilding of Iraq’s roads, building, and infrastructure destroyed by this war, as this is our moral and legal obligation. Instead of US corporations and war profiteers, we must employ the Iraqi people, "the engineers, mechanics, farmers, and business leaders, including women" to rebuild their country as it is their vision and promise that we must aspire to.

Fourth, we must give international relief agencies full access to help the people of Iraq and alleviate their suffering. We must help heal the Iraqi people and reweave the fabric of their lives.

Next, we must accept the form of government freely chosen by the Iraqi people, without US influence. Our insistence upon a particular form of government only degrades the political process and democracy cannot be imposed upon others by the barrel of a gun.

Also, we must take steps at home to change the mindset of the American people. Through an environment of fear and images of mushroom clouds brought to us by our government at the hands of a permissive media, we were provided with a false sense of justification for our actions. We were wrong and we need to recognize that we were wrong. Americans must be reminded that truth, honesty, freedom, and liberty for all are our core values. The freedoms and liberties that have been taken from us through the labels of “traitor,” “un-American,” and “terrorist” must be restored. We must rise as a people to ensure that our freedom and liberties are not taken so easily from us again.

We must also address the root causes of this conflict, not only in our hearts but in our daily lives. We must wrestle with the biggest factor of our aggression and we must reduce our dependence on oil.

As a result of this war, countless lives have been lost and ruined, and our integrity among our global partners has been compromised. We must repair relations and strengthen the ties that bind us all by eliminating the permissiveness of greed and violence and holding those responsible for this war accountable. At the same time, we must also demonstrate the power of forgiveness. We must release those we have imprisoned, even those who may now wish us harm. The men, women, and children of Iraq should be free to begin rebuilding their lives, regardless of our suspicions. We must remove the log in our own eye before attempting to remove the splinter in another’s.

We must demonstrate our strength at home and abroad by apologizing to the Iraqi people, the UN, and to the world. By redressing the wrongs that we have inflicted, we demonstrate respect for freedom and democracy. By redressing the wrongs, we strengthen the bonds of humanity, we make peace possible, and we restore our soul.

In the name of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let us lift our voices and rock the heavens for as our conscience tells us, now is the time to speak.

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