Seminarians to End War, Sow Peace

the blog of the SEW Peace network

– What the Money for Wall Street Means

The Magnitude and Meaning of the Proposed Bailout:
What $700 Billion for Wall Street means on Main Street

Northampton, MA – September 23, 2008 – The plan proposed by President Bush and Secretary Paulson for a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street is difficult for most people to comprehend. National Priorities Project, a non-partisan organization that offers research and analysis of federal spending priorities, is offering an analysis of what $700 billion means to taxpayers.

It is extremely difficult for most of us to get our minds around what this extraordinary amount of money means,” says Jo Comerford, Executive Director of National Priorities Project. “We hear every day about spending cuts to infrastructure and social services. Now the current Administration is proposing to spend more than what is currently allocated for the U.S. War in Iraq on this Wall Street bailout. It is critically important that we urge our elected representatives to take a close and careful look at the trade offs involved in their decisions.”

A healthy and productive economy requires substantial investment in affordable housing, health care, education and renewable energy. Taxpayers in the United States who will be required to pay $700 billion for the Wall Street bailout should also know that for the same amount of money, they could secure the following:

  • 51.6 million people with health care for four years OR

  • 181.2 million homes with renewable electricity for four years OR

  • 2.9 million elementary school teachers for four years OR

  • 27 million four-year scholarships for university students

$700 billion is more than what is currently allocated for the U.S. war in Iraq. This amount would allow us to repair all of our nation’s 77,000 deteriorated bridges and still have $519 billion to spend; or it would allow us to rebuild all of our nations 33,000 deteriorating schools and still have $664 billion to spend.

For more analysis and trade-offs at the State and Congressional District level, please visit National Priorities Project’s Trade-offs page online (

The National Priorities Project (NPP) is a 501(c)(3) research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. Located in Northampton, MA, since 1983, NPP focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels. For more information, go to


September 24, 2008 Posted by | capitalism, news | , , , , | 1 Comment

– Guns at Peace Church Schools?

by Audrey deCoursey – cross-posted at the blog of the Womaen’s Caucus of the Church of the Brethren

School shootings have horrified pacifists along with all other citizens of our fair nation. We all want to prevent such violence. We all want our campuses to be safe places for higher learning, not danger zones that put students’ lives at risk. We all know that this is a terrible challenge to discern how to keep our schools safe, and that there is no one perfect answer. But shouldn’t peace church members use different means of keeping our campuses safe than our less-pacifist brethren?

Apparently not, at some Brethren schools, that is. An embarrassing Washington Post article explores how different colleges affiliated with the three historic peace churches – the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonites, and the Friends/Quakers – have equipped their campuses in response to the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. What’s embarrassing about it to a Brethren like me is that it’s only Brethren colleges (two of our seven schools), not Mennonite or Quaker schools, that have resorted to the tools of empire to (supposedly) protect students, by hiring armed guards.

Sure, even at these schools there were voices of dissent. And sure, many of the other schools rely on armed local police, but it’s only Brethren schools that have taken the initiative to bring weapons onto their campuses. Somehow, most of these schools remember their identities as peace churches, while it’s Brethren college representatives who forget and think adopting the violent means of our state will end violence. How does this make Brethren look to others, that we’re so confused about what it means to be a “living peace church” that we bring guns onto our campuses?

If any of us needed evidence of the phenomenon Carl Bowman and others are propounding, that Brethren have lost much of their peculiar identity, they need look no further than this article. Why is Brethren heritage not a “huge part” of the “culture and identity” at some Brethren colleges? Or, why is pacifist renunciation of the tools of warfare not a huge part of our Brethren heritage? Where are the Brethren pioneering “another way of living” and another way of responding to tragic violence? Do the Juniata College trustees really think guns will make the campus safer? Are none of the peace church voices loud enough to drown out the national cacophony meeting violence with more weapons – are there no recognized alternatives?

The closing line of the article, a quote by Donald B. Kraybill of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, pretty well sums up my feelings on the matter:

“I would hope that colleges in the peace church tradition have the brainpower to come up with creative nonviolent alternatives.”


June 2, 2008 Posted by | nonviolence, peace, school | , , , | Leave a comment

– Youth Against Recruitment Event

May 14, 2008 Posted by | Iraq, nonviolence, peace, school, war | Leave a comment

– An Open Letter on Stealing from Soldiers

12 May 2008

An Open Letter to PSR Students, Faculty, Staff, and Other Community Members;

Last week, we, the members of Seminarians to End War (SEW), began to collect the items for our final care package for our “adopted” soldier serving in Iraq, from the donation box in the Holbrook lobby. To our deep disappointment, we found that items we ourselves had placed in the box were no longer there. That is, some member(s) of the PSR community had stolen these items from the donation box.

This theft calls for community-wide repentance.

A systemic analysis of this theft reveals that the Holbrook Lobby may be more like the Oval Office than most of us would like. Perhaps PSR is willing to continue the Bush Administration’s pattern of irresponsibility and its eagerness to deny US soldiers the human comforts that would seem to be deserved by anyone suffering the inhumane treatment of the US military.

Unlike during wars of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, today’s US Americans have not been asked to sacrifice to help the “war effort” in Iraq. John McCain, George W. Bush, and other Republicans “hawks” who initiated this war have blocked the latest G.I. Bill, which would provide veterans with adequate care and provide soldiers with adequate safety equipment. This care would be too generous, they argue. Taking the past week’s events here at PSR as an example of citizen opinion, they might be correct. Some of us seem unwilling to sacrifice even a candy bar – which we did not even buy – for others.

Perhaps we have not made clear enough that these care packages are not part of the war effort, but instead part of our peace effort. We see how the war’s effects do not take place only abroad on the front lines of battle. The repercussions of war resound for decades in the lives of all who experience it. Currently, hundreds of veterans attempt suicide every month; this is part of the travesty of war that those who wage it would rather we did not know. As faith leaders who work for peace, we choose to know this – and to act to ameliorate this sin. By supporting the mental and spiritual health of one soldier, we are helping end part of the war being waged on the battlefront of his very soul.

This was theft not only from our friend in service in Iraq. It was also theft from all the members of the PSR community who have been donating what they can afford.

We have another chance to rectify the damage of this theft. We have postponed sending out our final care package, in order to gather more candy, snacks, and other items. If you took any items from the donation box, we invite you to donate at least as much as you took. If you did not take the items, but would like to contribute toward the care package, we invite you to join us in supporting “our” service person and we thank you for taking part in this peace effort. Please place your donations in the box by Friday, May 16th.

May we all confess our complicity in the many layers of war’s sin.

Blessings of peace and healing,
the members of Seminarians to End War, Sow Peace (SEW Peace)

May 11, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Iraq, nonviolence, peace, seminarians, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

– Five years too many.

Yet again, we mourn this hellish incarnation of war. This war is on Iraq, and it is showing yet again why all war is humanity’s great sin.

Here are some pictures: one sign from today’s rally at San Francisco’s Civic Center (put to good use); the other sign from the two-way protest at Berkeley City Council a few weeks ago (the one where the Lafayette Flag Brigade deigned to enter Berkeley city limits in order to sing patriotic songs (poorly) and make it known to anyone who would listen that they didn’t like the Berkeley City Council’s decision to support the Code Pink protests at the Berkeley Marine recruiting station; in response, ‘Code Pinklets’ (as the Flag Brigadiers called them) and folks from the World Can’t Wait campaigns staged a counter-protest; I’ll let you guess which protest this sign is from).

picture-3.png Sick of War?

The pictures below are from the memorial vigil at Grace Cathedral. As an acolyte passed among the crowd dispersing incense, clergy from various faiths (among them Christian, Buddhist, and Jewish) read off the names of victims of this war on Iraq. We crowded around them, standing among pairs of shoes placed on the cathedral steps.

Grace Cathedral Steps Memorial

The effect of the shoes was profound. I appreciated the somber tone of the vigil, even while my soul is fed by the liturgy of street protests just as much. The memorial vigil allowed me a few moments to pause and try to really remember the loss, as Jesus urged us to do as his disciples.

Grace Cathedral Steps Memorial

I imagined the people who, but for being murdered by this war, might have stood there on the steps filling those shoes. There would have been hundreds of them, thousands, hundreds of thousands – the actual number don’t really matter when mourning. Too many. I wondered if they would stand in those shoes staring out from the steps, as the shoes were pointing, facing the world with accusing eyes, or if they might turn around and listen to the prayers being spoken from the top of the cathedral steps.

With the lessons from my Swedenborgian friend still fresh on my mind, I understood for the first time the concept of angels, at least as she describes them: the disembodied presence of those humans who have died but are still among us. And even though fear (and its companion, hatred) was the source of their deaths, these angels only love, and ask us to remember.

Grace Cathedral Steps Memorial

I also knew that a pair of shoes was not nearly enough to remember the complexity of even one single person lost in this war. Standing next to my partner and amongst many of my dear friends, I felt just how much effort it would take to properly remember anyone so dear to me as them.

Shoes were not made to memorialize murders; they are not strong enough to bear the burden. But they are an important start.

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Iraq, prayer, PSR, seminarians | , , , , | 1 Comment

– We Have the Power –

– Americans and Iraqis Can Vote Directly to End the War

If we begin to act now, we can place initiatives against the war on the ballots of as many as thirty states in the November election (and many more cities and counties), and give over half the American people the opportunity to vote to end the Iraq War.  This will be the best way to elect a pro-peace majority in Congress and successfully pressure the next president to bring all the troops home. 

We can also support the Iraqi people in their democratic, nonviolent efforts for peace, including a possible national referendum in Iraq on ending the U.S. occupation.  A U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in response to such a democratic vote will greatly reduce support for terrorist groups and the threat of terrorism. 
In California, it is too late to put an anti-war initiative on the state ballot, but if the twenty-nine cities and four counties that have passed resolutions against the war simply place initiatives on local ballots, 25 percent of the voters of this state can vote on ending the war.  If we organize more broadly, we can reach even more voters. 

Please come to the meeting to plan a campaign to place anti-war initiatives on city and county ballots throughout California, and in states and cities across the nation: 

Thursday evening, February 21, 7-9 PM

Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1606 Bonita (Cedar and Bonita)

Fireside Room (upstairs)

Iraq Initiatives Project, a project of the Ecumenical Peace Institute

initiatepeace <at>       

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, conscience, military, peace, politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

– The Costs of War

The AFSC has made a little video comparing the costs of one day of the Iraq war to domestic fiscal priorities (well, what should be priorities).  Now, just imagine what it would do for our country – let alone Iraq – to go one WEEK without the war….

January 25, 2008 Posted by | nonviolence, oil, peace, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

– UMC Bishops Pass Resolution on Iraq War

Passed on from Kim Montenegro

Dear Bishop Shamana, District Superintendents, Administrative Assistants, & Conference Communications,
On November 9, 2007 The United Methodist Council of Bishops passed a Resolution on the Iraq War. Click here for a link to the General Board of Church & Society’s website where you can sign to support the Council of Bishops Resolution. I hope that you will consider signing this “online”. Please pass this info on to your constituents.
Thank you for your consideration, and all that you do.

January 4, 2008 Posted by | peace, PSR | , , , , , | Leave a comment

– BADA: Excellent Resource on Burma’s Freedom Struggle

BADA (Burmese American Democratic Alliance) is a great group educating folks and connecting Americans into the Burmese freedom struggle.  Check out their web site (, host one of their amazing speakers, and stop by their upcoming event if you get a chance:

Come support the Monks and nuns of Burma
Burma’s Struggle continues: An Evening with Burmese Monk leader and former monk political prisoner + Video

Monday Dec 17, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists Hall
1924 Cedar Street (@Bonita), Berkeley, CA 94709  

December 11, 2007 Posted by | BURMA | , , , , , | Leave a comment

– Free Burma – Learn More – Get Active

Burma’s Struggle for Democracy:

The Saffron Revolution 

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007

7:00 pm

Pacific School of Religion

Mudd 100

1798 Scenic Avenue

Berkeley CA 94709

Join us for an evening with Nyunt Than, President and Co-Founder of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA) as he shares with us a short documentary film “Prayer of Peace: Relief & Resistance in Burma’s War Zones” (2007). 

Mr. Than was born and educated in Burma.  He left the country after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and since 2001 has been advocating for democracy and freedom for Burma. 

The documentary follows ethnic front-line relief workers as they aid internally displaced people suffering under the Burma Army.  Focusing on a female medic and a pastor/human rights cameraman, the film reveals a people that have maintained their dignity and hope for peace despite the odds.  Filmed on relief missions with the Free Burma Rangers. 

Event sponsored by PANA and Seminarians to End War.

For more information on the event:

Rev. Deborah Lee,  dlee <at>

November 29, 2007 Posted by | BURMA | , , , , , | Leave a comment