Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Invitation: Awaken to Drones!

“The people of the United States would be horrified if they actually understood how many innocent people are being swept up in the maw of these wars. So people are just permitted to sleep. And its going to be very disturbing for the American people when they awake from the slumber to look out upon a world where there’s carnage everywhere that’s created by our nation without any legal process, without any constitutional basis and without any articulated justification.”
Dennis Kucinich, "US Drone Program Is ‘Vigilantism Conducted by Robots’"

“I have been asleep. Where have you been?
Is there any justification for this kind of killing: either killing by cross or
drone? When will we awaken and cry out about the horror of it all?
And once we reach that place of gut-felt anguish,
what will we do about it?”
Susan Soric from her Call to Confession

People across the globe who the US has deemed terrorists awake to drones hovering overhead every day. The noise is incessant and so is the killing---targeted or suspected. Some report that we are killing up to one person per day. So while the rest of the world remains awake or is on constant alert, Code Red, we in the United States, the country that now has thousands of drones (increased 40 fold since 2000) are asleep. Some might say we have been drugged by the illusion that anything and everything is permissible for the sake of our security (or another country’s resources). Others would say the use of drones keep our soldiers safe, out of harms way--- minimalizing causalities. Soldiers can go to work and kill from the safety of an air force base 8,000 miles away from the “enemy combatants” then return home and have dinner with the family. Still others might say, “We didn’t know.” But a growing number are beginning to wake up and say, “No, this is wrong. It’s against international law. It’s against our Constitution. It’s extrajudicial killing. It’s morally wrong.”

Wherever you are on this continuum we invite you to wake up and join us in theological conversation or dialogue about the use of drones for warfare and surveillance. A few of us here in the Chicago area from a variety of faith and spiritual backgrounds have begun to wake up and talk about the horror of it all. We are beginning to question our country’s use of drones instead of due process, our President’s Kill List, the naming of all men above 18 years of ages as “enemy combatants.” It’s made some of us go back and study Just War theory again, dig deep into our sacred texts, examine our consciences. It’s brought us together and made us want to reach out to you.

This blog is a project of Protest Chaplains of Chicago and an extension of our conversation online, an open letter, an invitation for those of you who are just waking up or are insomniacs to join us in a study that will guide and lead us to take actions to stop this warring madness, to ground the drones.

The participants in this conversation include:

Betty Benson
Pat Chaffee
Jack Gilroy
Jack Lawlor
Rev. Loren McGrail
Joe Scarry
Newland Smith
Susan Soric
Meghan M.M. Trimm

Elizabeth (Betty) I. Benson is a member of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ in Chicago. The Elizabeth I. Benson Award was created in her honor, and she was the inaugural recipient of the award on June 26, 2004. This award is given to a person who works tirelessly and faithfully for social justice in the Chicago area and beyond, while simultaneously shunning personal recognition of their efforts. The awardee receives a magnifying glass, which symbolizes Betty’s unceasing commitment to magnifying the injustices in our world to a level where other people not only are made aware of them, but also are inspired and moved to work in solidarity with others for justice. Learn what Betty Benson will be writing about.

Pat Chaffee has been active in human rights work since 1982. She was director of the Michigan Interfaith Committee on Central American Human Rights (MICAH), and a staff member of the Central American Refugee Center in San Francisco. She has traveled with human rights delegations to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, the West Bank, Gaza, and Pakistan. She is available for presentations on Pakistan at this time. Learn what Pat Chaffee will be writing about.

Jack Gilroy is a full time human rights/peace activist and former Prisoner of Conscience for the School of the Americas Watch. Gilroy’s two novels of young men who refused to be part of the United States military, "Absolute Flanigan" and "The Wisdom Box", received gold medal awards by OMNI Center for Peace & Justice. He is also the author of The Predator, part of a dramatic trilogy about moral challenges and conscience, especially related to war and violence. Gilroy was arrested during the October, 2012, "Hancock 10" protest, in which he and others the blocked the entrance to the drone command center near Syracuse, New York. See Irish-Americans and War and Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter.

Jack Lawlor was ordained as a Dharma Teacher by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh at a Transmission of the Lamp Ceremony at the Plum Village monastic center in southern France in 1992. He is a co-founder of Lakeside Buddha Sangha, a 21 year-old meditation community in Evanston. Jack collaborated with Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh in publishing "Friends on the Path; Living Spiritual Communities" in 2002. Jack has served as President of the Buddhist Council of the Midwest and on the National Board of Directors of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Learn what Jack will be writing about.

Rev. Loren McGrail is a minister with United Church of Christ and Coordinator of Protest Chaplains of Chicago. She started at Andover Newton Theological School on September 11, 2001 and has been active in peace making in her ministry ever since. In addition to a Masters in Divinity from ANTS she has a Certificate in World Mission and Ecumenism from Boston Theological Institute in recognition for her work on Muslim and Christian dialogue in Egypt and her field work at the multi faith Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts. She has worked as a hospital chaplain and parish minister. She spent three months with the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel and with Global Missions of the United Church of Christ. She coordinates the Middle East and Southeast Asia Task Force at Wellington United Church of Christ where she is a member. She is seeking a call that allows her to use her creativity and passion for justice and peace. Learn what Loren will be writing about.

Joe Scarry is an IT consultant and antiwar activist based in Chicago. He is a member of St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, and is a participant in the ELCA's Peace Not Walls initiative, as well as numerous local other activist groups. He is currently working to spur the development of a nationwide network of grassroots anti-drones groups. His blog is Scarry Thoughts. Learn what Joe will be writing about.

Newland Smith is a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship's Palestine Israel Network and Committee against Political Repression; member of the Chicago Faith Coalition on the Middle East; President, Anglican Theological Review; Convener, Diocese of Chicago Task Force on the Legacy of Slavery. Retired five years ago as the Librarian of Seabury-WesternTheological Seminary. Deputy to the past nine General Conventions of the Episcopal Church. Current efforts center around advocacy against and reading about the connection of war and poverty and peace with justice for Israelis and Palestinians. Learn what Newland will be writing about.

Susan Soric is a writer, journalist, and theologian. She graduated in May of 2012 with a master of divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago. Susan holds a master of theological studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and a master of arts degree in performance studies and the interpretation of literature from Northwestern University, also in Evanston. A member of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ in Chicago, Susan pursing a call to ministry—both chaplaincy and parish work—and is seeking ordination in her denomination. Susan, her partner Claire, and their 20-month-old daughter Isobel, live in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. Learn what Susan will be writing about.

Meghan M.M. Trimm is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a founding member of DePaul’s Nonviolent Living Project and a founding member of Protest Chaplains of Chicago. She will graduate from DePaul University with a Bachelor’s degree in Peace Justice and Conflict Studies in June 2013. Currently, Meghan works as an activist/peacemaker and nonviolence trainer in Chicago’s rich anti-war/anti-drones community. She is also beginning grassroots organizing in the campaign for women’s liberation in the Catholic Church by founding an organization called Sophia. All of Meghan's work is an exploration of the relationship between spirituality and activism. Learn what Meghan will be writing about.

Breaking the Silence: Syracuse NY April 26, 2013

Catholics, people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists, are invited to speak to the silence of the Diocese of Syracuse on the issue of assassination by drones. The Roman Catholic Chancery, the main office of the Syracuse Diocese, is a short distance to the Hancock Air Force drone base.

On Friday, April 26th at 11AM, people will gather in front of the chancery, just a block south of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 259 Onondaga St. Syracuse, NY 13202.

Open microphones will be available for anyone to break the silence for Bishop Robert Joseph Cunningham, now in his fifth year as Bishop of Syracuse.

Organizers of the event, Friends of Franz (Jagerstatter) have requested Bishop Cunningham and hundreds of Catholic Bishops in the United States to speak out in opposition to war and assassinations. Their silence has been deafening. It’s time for the people to speak out. More information? Call 607 321 8537

Meet 11AM April 26th in front of the Roman Catholic Chancery in Syracuse

In 2007, Catholics who spent much of their lives opposing militarism were shocked to learn that the Roman Catholic Church announced the beatification of Austrian Catholic, Franz Jagerstatter. Jagerstatter had refused to go to war with the Nazis. In 1943, he was arrested, imprisoned, put on trial and beheaded. His parish priest, his Bishop and his village did not support his actions. There was silence. Before he was executed, Jagerstatter wrote: “If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

Some America Catholics, so disturbed by the failure of American Catholic leaders refusing to break the silence on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, went to the beatification in Linz, Austria. When they returned, they began to write a series of letters to American Catholic Bishops asking them to speak out against the wars we were waging. After six logical, well crafted letters of respectful Christian requests to speak out were sent over a two year period to over 300 Bishops, the group calling themselves, Friends of Franz (Jagerstatter) waited for some answers. There was one response from a Romanian Catholic Bishop John Michael Botean of Ohio. It was the only letter and a letter of support for our work.

When drone warfare began under the Bush Administration and then escalated under the leadership of President Obama, Friends of Franz researched the issue, wrote United States Catholic Bishops calling upon them to speak out in opposition to drones. A play that focused on drone warfare out of Syracuse, NY and performed at churches and universities, letters were written to editorial page editors.

Some members of Friends of Franz worked through St James Catholic Church in Johnson City, NY to petition their Bishop of Syracuse, Robert J Cunningham, to speak out in opposition to death dealing drones operating just a few miles from his chancery office in downtown Syracuse. Drones fired via satellite from Hancock Air Force Base in Syracuse assassinate supposed ‘enemies’ in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan and perhaps other areas. The St James Johnson City Peace/Justice folks asked Bishop Cunningham for a meeting. He did not respond over a two year period to our letters but finally a meeting was arranged. Bishop Cunningham said we need to know that drones save us from invading other nations, from having boots on the ground. Additionally, he said that we should know that many of the people working at Hancock Drone base are Catholic.

Bishop Cunningham was asked if he could make a moral decision on the killing use of drones. He said he could not at this time. The meeting was a year ago and no response has come from the chancery.

Juan Cole, distinguished Professor of Middle East Studies at Michigan University, notes that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism states that ‘At least 400 civilians have been killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan.’ In fact, the Pakistani government figures are about the same as the Bureau’s own findings. A United Nations report indicates 2200 hundred people have been killed including at least 400 civilians. The report says: “The US drone campaign in Pakistan involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of its sovereignty.”

On Friday, April 26th, at 11AM, Friends of Franz will gather outside of the Syracuse Diocese Chancery to call on Bishop Cunningham to break his silence on war and the active participation of Catholics in the killings waged out of Hancock Air Base in the Diocese of Syracuse, NY. An open microphone will be available for Catholics to speak their views.

"A time comes when silence is betrayal."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Riverside Church, April, 1967
(Speaking out against the Vietnam War).

Friday, March 29, 2013

"The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era"

"America is addicted to war."
Marie Shebeck as antiwar activist Kelly Mcguire.

"I had hoped you’d go to one of the military academies."
Jay Becker as Major Jennifer Golden, drone pilot, and
Sarah Latham as her daughter, Ella.

"And I thought I had a discharge from the Air Force culture."

"Ella, it’s not like I’m in your face."

"As we move away from boots on the ground
and pilots in the air, drones will overtake
all forms of military spending.
We’re into a new era of defense."
Rosalie Reigle as Senator Barbara Lewis

"We want to break the silence of Catholic Bishops,
but we feel that our more important goal is to get
the word out to the people -— especially young people."
Playwright Jack Gilroy discusses The Predator.

Chicago Presentation of "Passion Play for the Drones Era"
Kicks Off National Campaign of Actions

Performance Ties Drones Killing to
Good Friday Observance

In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, on Friday for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country.

The Chicago event, a play entitled The Predator, about a drone pilot, her teenage daughter, a peace activist, and a U.S. Senator, was offered in conjunction with the 33rd Annual 8th Day Center for Justice Good Friday Walk for Justice. The play was staged at Grace Place (637 S Dearborn,Chicago), and was co-produced by the American Friends Service Committee, the White Rose Catholic Worker, and the No Drones Network, all based in Chicago.

"In fact, the idea of presenting The Predator in Chicago on Good Friday was inspired by last year's Walk for Justice," said Joe Scarry, coordinator of the No Drones Network. "Last year at Station 9 -- Execution -- representatives of Voices for Creative Nonviolence explained that the cross was Empire's weapon of choice for executing people, and that if Jesus were among us today he would probably be executed by a drone strike."

The Chicago production of The Predator was co-sponsored by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, as well as by the Antiwar Committee and Chicago Area Peace Action.

As reported on March 27, 2013, in The Guardian ( ), Barack Obama's drones programme will be the target of a month-long series of protests dubbed "April Days of Action" by participants. "We're excited to have multiple events in Chicago -- including this dramatic production as well as a major protest on April 6 of Chicago-based Boeing Corporation's killer drone program -- to help kick off this national campaign," said Joe Iosbaker, of the Antiwar Committee.

Events are planned for Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Dayton, Ft. Wayne, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Seattle, Tucson, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Honolulu, as well as in dozens of other locations, including many of the communities that host the estimated 100 drone basing sites in the U.S.

The Predator is available for free download on the Pax Christi website.
Groups are encouraged to mount their own productions!

You can listen to the Chicago performance of
The Predator on WBEZ Chicago's Chicago Amplified.

For more information on The Predator, see
"How Communities Are Using the Play The Predator to Question Drone Warfare ".

Chicago Production of

by Jack Gilroy


JAY BECKER as Major Jennifer Golden, her mother
ROSALIE RIEGLE as Senator Barbara Lewis
MARIE SHEBECK as Kelly Maguire, a peace and justice activist

and introducing SARAH LATHAM as Ella Golden, a college student

Produced by Marie Shebeck, Molly McQueen, and Joe Scarry

Related posts

The Predator challenges us with the question: What do we think about "Just War" Theory? In the introduction to the play, Gilroy says, "This play hopes to quicken the moral juices of Jesuit students who have been taught it’s okay to go to war and kill as long as you have good reasons provided by your country’s leadership." As the antiwar activist says near the end of the play, "No war is just."

(See How Communities Are Using the Play "The Predator" to Question Drone Warfare )

Reviewer Stephen Holden has written in The New York Times that Good Kill "makes a persuasive case that our blind infatuation with all-powerful technology is stripping us of our humanity . . . "

(See "Good Kill" Will Have EVERYONE Talking About the "Invisible" Drone Wars )

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

"By turns comic and appalling, Unmanned dramatizes the lives of two drone operators in a remote desert in the American Southwest—one, a retired male fighter pilot who is terrified to fly; the other, a young female gamer who has never flown. This sets the stage for an exploration of the bizarre and disturbing profession of the military drone “pilot” and the ways in which technology has radically altered contemporary life and warfare."