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Pax Christi Goes to Los Alamos


BY JOHN DEAR

For the second year in a row, Pax Christi New Mexico led a peace vigil in the secluded mountain town of Los Alamos , New Mexico , the birthplace of the bomb, on the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima .

About 125 Catholics from across the state joined the vigil. Since the nuclear weapons work is scattered throughout the town, and the lab has been shut-down this past summer because of two missing top secret computer disks, we lined the sidewalks of the main road with our signs and banners calling for an end to nuclear weapons and our conversion to Gospel nonviolence.

After several hours, we concluded at Ashley Pond in front of the town headquarters, and offered prayers for peace and blessings upon all Los Alamos employees. Along with last year's protest, and a large gathering sponsored by Peace Action in 1999, this was the only major protest held at Los Alamos in decades.

The night before the gathering, Detroit Bishop and former Pax Christi president Thomas Gumbleton addressed three hundred Catholics at a Santa Fe church on the immorality of nuclear weapons and the current U.S. occupation of Iraq .

"Modern warfare is totally unacceptable," Gumbleton was quoting as saying on the front page of the state newspaper the next day. "Participating in the development of these weapons is participating in evil."

He also reflected on the nonviolence of Jesus, discussed the commandment to love our enemies, and urged everyone to practice Gospel nonviolence. "Jesus was always reaching out to others and used the power of love to overcome evil and the world. This power of love always works because Jesus announced that in the end he will 'draw all people' to himself.'"

Later in the afternoon of August 6th, at the Sixth Annual Peace Festival held in the historic plaza of Santa Fe , I told some 500 people that if Los Alamos can't keep track of two computer disks, they surely can't be trusted with 10,000 nuclear weapons; no one can. All these weapons of mass destruction need to be dismantled, I said. This work is sinful, immoral, and evil, and needs to stop immediately.

In New Mexico , such words come as a shock since business is booming at Los Alamos , the world's largest weapons Lab, and few people ever criticize it. New Mexico remains number one in military spending and nuclear weapons spending. The Bush Administration's 2005 budget includes the largest budget for nuclear weapons ever, and the Lab's budget is higher than it has ever been, including at any point during the Cold War.

Meanwhile the church has a long history of remaining silent about Los Alamos , and indeed, blessing and supporting the nuclear weapons business. Most Lab employees are Catholic and have never been told that their faith and the Gospel prevent our participation in warmaking. Our public stand and media visibility have touched a nerve throughout the state because we have said that Christians cannot follow Jesus and build nuclear weapons at the same time. It's one or the other.

"The Bush Administration sent 150,000 U.S. soldiers over 10,000 miles into the desert of Iraq to kill some 10,000 Iraqis supposedly to find and dismantle a weapon of mass destruction and now everyone knows that our government lied to us, that there never were any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that this whole war is about stealing Iraq's oil, but today we tell everyone concerned about weapons of mass destruction that we've found them," I told the crowd in the Santa Fe plaza. "They're right here in our backyard in Los Alamos ! We call upon our government to get rid of them and to abolish war itself."

With the recent Homeland Security alerts against terrorism, our task is to point out that nuclear weapons are the ultimate terrorism. While the annual protests at the "School of the Americas" and elsewhere need to continue, I hope that others will come to New Mexico and join our new campaign to close Los Alamos, and that every Pax Christi group and region will start now to plan large scale protests to mark the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, next August 2005.

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