Readings in Nonviolence features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)
The death of Daniel Berrigan SJ, aged 94, on 30th April, removes one of the most inspirational, and prominent, figures in the US peace movement over the last half century. He first came to prominence, along with his brother Philip (Phil), as part of the 'Catonsville 9' resisting the Vietnam War in 1968 but he had been a radical and peace activist well before that, and went on to become a founder of the Plowshares (Ploughshares) movement of direct actions against weapons of war. And there was so much more to Dan Berrigan than being a radical peace activist; he was a thinker, poet, author, biblical analyst and commentator, and an inspirational figure to many. The late 1960s may have been a time of political radicalism but for Berrigan it was part of who he was, and of his faith, and he never lost that faith.
Partly of Irish ethnic origin (as his surname would attest) he visited and spoke at different times in Ireland. His first public talk in Ireland, at a venue in Trinity College Dublin around 1973, was totally full up half an hour before the meeting was due to start – and the first person to come arrived an hour and a half before the meeting was due to start. He was seen as being that inspirational. He was that inspirational.
A word search will throw up plenty about Dan Berrigan but here are a few links covering his life:
A quote used in the last link comes from when he was on trial in 1981:
"The only message I have to the world is: We are not allowed to kill innocent people. We are not allowed to be complicit in murder. We are not allowed to be silent while preparations for mass murder proceed in our name, with our money, secretly...It's terrible for me to live in a time where I have nothing to say to human beings except, "Stop killing."
There are other beautiful things that I would love to be saying to people. There are other projects I could be very helpful at. And I can't do them. I cannot. Because everything is endangered. Everything is up for grabs. Ours is a kind of primitive situation, even though we would call ourselves sophisticated. Our plight is very primitive from a Christian point of view. We are back where we started. Thou shalt not kill; we are not allowed to kill. Everything today comes down to that — everything."
This remains a message as relevant today as when spoken in a courtroom in 1981.