"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Planting (and Nurturing) Seeds of Peace

Dear Friends,

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons is not for those of faint heart. It requires a deep sense of commitment and sense of purpose because we are working not only to secure humanity's very future, but we are also working against extraordinary odds. This is no small task.

I have been fortunate to work with many extraordinary people, most of whom have many more years of experience than me; I learn from all of them. I recently learned a great lesson from one in particular, Father Bill "Bix" Bischel. One might think of Bix as a gardener of sorts. Here's the story.

One day in October, 2009 I was standing in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Tacoma with fellow abolitionists during a vigil preceding court proceedings for a fellow nuclear resister. Bix was there, and he approached me and said, "Leonard; wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get a few Hibakusha to speak in Seattle?" My first thought was, "Wow, that is a great idea!" It was immediately followed by, "Uh oh; Bix is asking me to make this happen!"

If you ever have the honor of getting to know Bix you will learn that it is difficult to say "NO" to someone of his deep faith and commitment, demonstrated throughout his long, rich life. This gentle Jesuit embodies the essential elements of justice, mercy and peacemaking (and, of course, humility) from which the "church" could learn (if it would only free itself from the bonds of 1700 years of empire).

My simple answer to Bix was, "I'll start working on it." The rest, as they say, is history. Bix planted a seed within me; I watered and nurtured it (with help from many others), and it grew into something extraordinary. Along the way I had my doubts, but I persevered. I began right away, making contacts, sending emails and making phone calls. Rejection after rejection made me wonder if something would ever come together. Then, months later (in February 2010), I received an email from Yayoi Tsuchida, Assistant General Secretary of the Japan Council against A and H Bombs. He thanked me for my invitation, and informed me that a delegation of 40 persons representing Gensuikyo would be arriving in Seattle on May 5. Talk about a shocker!!!

Over the next few weeks I reached out to countless individuals (in a variety of organizations) who came through to make sure that the visiting delegation would be warmly welcomed. I organized an evening presentation at First United Methodist Church of Seattle, and Bix organized a series of activities in Tacoma for the following day (this man is tireless). Members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ) prepared a special welcome at GZ for the last leg of the delegation's tour.

As for the "history", the delegation arrived around noon on May 5th. My wife and I greeted them at SeaTac airport, and we then set off for Seattle. Besides enjoying the sites of Puget Sound, the delegation brought its message of peace and nuclear abolition, and established relationships (through people to people exchange) that will make our movement (to abolish nuclear weapons) a little stronger. It's very much like the Sister City Mission Statement (that Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland quoted: "Promoting peace through mutual understanding and cooperation, one individual, one community at a time." We forged new and (what I deeply hope will be) lasting relationships with our new friends from across the Pacific.

As for me, after all is said and done, and my new friends and partners in nuclear abolition have gone home, I am savoring (if only for a brief moment before getting back to work) the joyful memories of their visit. But I am also feeling a profound sense of gratitude towards Bix for the gift he gave me on that day in October when he planted that seed, one that grew strong, and will continue to grow into something greater than any one of us; one that we all nurture with our individual contributions. My hope for each of us in this movement (and the peace movement as a whole) is that we will each find strength in role models like Bix and continue to plant and nurture seeds of peace.



P.S. - Enjoy this slide show of the Gensuikyo delegation's visit to Seattle.

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