Father John Dear, a renowned peace activist, brought his presentation, “Jesus the Peacemaker: Following Jesus on the Path of Nonviolence” to the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center. More than 30 people from three states attended the retreat the evening of Nov. 1 and from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2019. Father John focused on the “Sermon on the Mount” and other Gospel readings about Jesus that relate to his teachings on nonviolence. He also highlighted the nonviolent philosophies of several others, including Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Father Daniel Berrigan, Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta).
He said there is division in today’s world, but we need to “see God in every person.” He told a story about attending an NRA convention and realized that many attendees validated their identity with their guns and flags. At the same time, he said we should all be sons and daughters of the God of Peace. “We can’t have warfare and weapons and justice at the same time,” Father John said.
He said if you are attacked, don’t be passive and run away, and don’t be violent and punch back. Instead, engage with that person about nonviolent teaching. Don’t be afraid to engage your oppressor. “Jesus never says, ‘Don’t talk,’” Father John said.
Father John has written at least 30 books and has been arrested more than 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war, injustice and nuclear weapons. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and again in 2015 by Dr. Leo Rebello of India. Father John was a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) from 1982-2013. He has given thousands of lectures on peace, disarmament and nonviolence in the U.S. and around the world.
Just prior to the retreat, Father John set aside an hour to meet with members of Nonviolent Owensboro, which was founded in 2016 by Ursuline Associate Mary Danhauer. The group of 10 enjoyed pizza in the dining room and a discussion about how the NVO organization can move forward and make more of an impact in the community. One of his suggestions was to have more one-on-one meetings with community leaders such as city and county commissioners, the police chief and school superintendents. He also suggested visualizing a “Nonviolent Owensboro.”
Here are photos taken during the retreat: