30 August 2012
CPT INTERNATIONAL: Remembering Anne Montgomery
Sister Anne Montgomery died of cancer on 27 August 2012, in Atherton, CA at the age of 85. Anne was a Sacred Heart sister and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams from 1995, serving on projects in Hebron and Iraq.
On 9 September 1980, Anne and seven others, including Dan and Philip Berrigan, entered a General Electric nuclear weapons plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files, thus putting into action the biblical injunction to “turn swords into plowshares.”
Of the seventy-five Plowshares actions that have occurred since, Anne participated in six. She served two months in federal prison for the last one in 2009.
Kathy Kelly, a leading peace activist in the United States and a close collaborator with CPT, recalls a conversation she had with Anne in May 2006. The two women were in Amman, Jordan awaiting visas to enter Iraq. In the week previous, an exhausted CPT Iraq team withdrew after three surviving members of a kidnapped CPT delegation were released in a military operation. The fourth, CPT Iraq Team member Tom Fox, had been murdered on 9 March.
Kathy asked Anne if she could discern any patterns from her decades of peace team work that Kathy might be able to follow. This is Kathy’s recollection of Anne’s response.
(What follows has been edited for length. See Kathy Kelly’s complete version here.)
The pattern begins first with forming communities, and second with thinking carefully about means and ends: not trying to sustain a difficult life of activism on one’s own, and always insisting that the means you employ determine the ends you arrive at.
|Sister Anne Montgomery and Kathy Kelly
witness against torture in Washington, DC.
(photo courtesy Disarm Now Ploughshares)
It’s not just a matter of blocking doors, shouting, doing a Plowshares action or whatever, but in every aspect it’s nonviolent, and not just resisting but doing it peacefully.
One person said you use two hands: with one hand you say no but with the other hand you say come join us, be part of us. And two feet: with one foot you do charity work but the other foot is the foot of justice. You try to see what’s behind the injustice, the hunger, and then you work to change it.
There’s also the call for people to intervene nonviolently and take the same risk as soldiers. CPT founders, Dan Berrigan and others have issued this call. They say take a risk, there’s a third way. You’re not limited to making war or giving in. You can resist nonviolently and be in a place to protect people nonviolently.
In every case, there is an oppressor and those who are oppressed. It’s important to get at that structural violence and tell the truth about it.
In Sarajevo, the U.N. peacekeepers were running around in tanks with bulletproof vests and guns. We didn’t do that. We tried to live alongside people and understand their situation. We went around in shorts and T-shirts, right along with them, trying to find water.
In Mostar (Herzegovina), I remember that some soldiers would sit in their tanks and talk to people. They really did try to have some kind of relationship, but they were still in their tanks. They were not disarmed. Soldiers in Iraq ask us, “What are you doing outside without a gun?” We say, “We’re safer this way.” Some soldiers tell us, “Maybe you’re right!”
I admire people like Camus who claim to be atheist. He worked for progress and change and made a tremendous commitment without having what faith gives us by way of strength, hope and nourishment. When a group forms based on faith and has the sense of the spirit of God working on the Earth and in people, it gives a great strength. And you don’t worry so much about results. If we believe in planting seeds, and if we act in that spirit, it helps even when you feel like you’re useless.
When people can relate to each other by praying together, you get to know them better. Little irritations aren’t so great because you see what’s important and deep in people. It helps give community and strength and spirit. When something happens like Tom’s death, we can turn to faith.