Franz Jagerstatter, Austrian peasant and church janitor, is honored on August 9, the day he was executed in 1943 for his refusal to fight in Hitler’s army. As a Roman Catholic he has been declared a “martyr of the faith” and is expected to be “beatified” this October. Franz lived the gospel that the church proclaims. He is a solitary witness of nonviolence from whom the community can learn.
Today we also remember the people of Nagasaki—victims of U.S. Weapons of Mass Destruction. We recall that city turned to ash and rubble. In Iraq, cities are also turned to radioactive rubble and ash, by the U.S. invasion and continuing occupation.
My city of Detroit is under military assault. Its resources are stripped by a war that has cost the citizens of Michigan $12 billion, and city residents $767 million in tax dollars. Why is money lacking for schools, clinics, community developments?
Moreover, the young people of our city are conscripted into the military by false promises, outright lies, and an economic draft which seems to offer no alternative living. We recall that the first soldier killed in Iraq was Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, a 28-year-old undocumented immigrant who was posthumously awarded U.S. citizenship.
We offer this prayer:
To the church we say:
Speak out and act against this war, from the pulpits (especially on August 1-19), from offices high and low. Read and live the gospel.
Lift up nonviolence; Honor Jagerstatter; remember the victims; repent our silence.
To the Pentagon and its recruiters we say:
End this war now. Obey international law. Leave our young people alone.
To the young people of our city we say:
There is hope in the communities of this city.
There is a future, economic and social, but we must make it ourselves.
We need one another; we need you here in the struggle for life and community.
To the dead of Nagasaki we say:
Forgive us even now. We commit ourselves to putting an end to these weapons.
To the people of Iraq, we say:
Forgive our silence and our complicity. Forgive our submission to these leaders.
We pledge to end this war. Refuse to pay for it. Refuse to fight in it.
Bill Wylie-Kellermann, a United Methodist pastor, is currently serving at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Mich. He is author of Seasons of Faith and Conscience (Orbis), which explores the biblical and theological bases for nonviolent resistance and “liturgical direct action,” and has edited an anthology, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow (Eerdmans).