A true man of peace has come to Northeastern New Mexico. Jesuit priest, peace activist, organizer, lecturer and author Rev. John Dear, arrived in Springer in August to serve as pastor for Catholic churches in nine area communities: Eagle Nest, Angel Fire, Black Lake, Cimarron, Springer, Maxwell, Tinaja, Rayado and Paolo Blanco. From his new home he is also continuing his life's work promoting peace and justice. He is also enjoying his new environment after spending 6 years in New York City.
"I'm delighted to be here," Dear said. "It's been quite a shock coming from Manhattan. More people lived on my block than in all the communities Im serving here. It's very peaceful, and I'm shocked by the beauty of creation."
Dear was directly involved with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when he became one of the coordinators of the Red Cross chaplain program after the attack on the World Trade Center.
I counseled thousands at Ground Zero. It was extremely stressful.
Following this intense experience, Dear requested an assignment in New Mexico, where he has friends throughout the state. Of course, he is making new friends as well.
Im delighted hes here, said Eagle Nest Mayor Neva Hascall, who plays the organ for mass at St. Mels Catholic Church there. Its very humbling to visit with someone whos done so much for what they believe.
A philosophy of peace
What happens when people of faith meet God and listen to Gods instructions? They immediately begin to disarm themselves. They beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They renounce war forever. They adopt nonviolence as a way of life. They walk in Gods way of peace for the rest of their days.
In other words, their lives are turned upside-down.
I didnt even put a dent in it, he said.
Along with the renowned and recently deceased peace activist Phillip Berrigan, he spent 8 months in North Carolina county jails. Since then, Dear, a native of North Carolina, has been arrested over 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience and has organized hundreds of demonstrations against war and nuclear weapons at military bases around the country.
He worked with Mother Theresa and others to stop the death penalty, and he has authored more than 20 books, including Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings, published in 2002.
Dears work for peace has taken him to El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Philippines, Northern Ireland and Iraq, where he led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners to witness the effects of sanctions on Iraqi children.
Most recently, Dear spoke at an Oct. 26 rally outside Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfelds house in Taos, where he said: Bombing the suffering people will not bring democracy to Iraq. It will not bring nuclear disarmament or peace to the Middle East. It will not prevent terrorist attacks. It will not build community with the rest of the world. It will not help our economy. It will not solve our problems or lead to true security. Bombing Iraq will only protect the oil companies, sow the seeds of further terrorism, set a horrible global precedent that it is okay to bomb preemptively and risk the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly children.
What everyone can do
Im turning down invitations left and right, he said, but I will continue to write and speak occasionally.
When asked what people in this area can do to promote the cause of peace, Dear said there were four things everybody could do:
1) Pray for peace and develop a peace mentality.
Closer to home, Dear will sign copies of his latest book Thursday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m. at Borders Bookstore, Winrock Center, Albuquerque and Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m. at Border's Bookstore, 500 Montezuma, Santa Fe.
Many of Dears writings and news stories can be found at www.fatherjohndear.org.
Used with permission from the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle.