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Standing for peace for 20 years (opinion)


Submitted by Rita Sloan, Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace and the Alternatives to Violence Project Nevada

September 20 will mark the 20th anniversary of a small weekly event held in front of the Thompson Federal Building since the first week in October 2001 when the United States of America began bombing Afghanistan in pursuit of the man they believed to be chiefly responsible for the 9/11 attacks weeks before. Back then our numbers were large, and people were adamant that a military response to 9/11 was not the answer.

Since then, our Peace Presence has continued every Monday on the steps of the Thompson Federal Building with the exception of the severe pandemic days when we remained home and held a ZOOM Peace Presence each week, returning to the Federal Building as soon as it was allowed, to be a public witness with our Peace Presence.

People have said to me, “All these years of doing this, and what have you accomplished?”

Not only did we not sway opinion enough to stop military action in Afghanistan, but the U.S. soon added a second long war in Iraq. Twenty years later, we see a devastated Iraq and Afghanistan. Dire environmental crisis’ headlines overwhelm us. Guns and gun violence have greatly escalated in this country. We have not only read about, but have actually witnessed videos of police murders, so many, in fact, it is difficult to believe these are rare or new occurrences. Our homeless numbers have grown across the nation.

Truly, not only did our little Peace Presence not stop the wars, the world, it seems, has embraced violence that has escalated exponentially.

Like a broad Internet map, this is simply the overall view with major points being marked. If we zoom in for a closer look, much more detail emerges. Our weekly meetings have done that for me. They have made the smaller details of the big picture clearer.

Here is a list of some of the details I have seen:

Peace and nonviolence groups have proliferated across the globe. There are small groups like ours and there are very large national and international groups.

Studies have shown that nonviolent movements and protests and rallies are increasingly and undeniably the more effective ways to bring about lasting change. Peace and nonviolence literature and trainings and other programs have become widespread.

The link between violence and injustice is unmistakable. Indeed, all the issues we face as human beings interconnect: frightening global environmental destruction, wars, record numbers of refugees and migrants, pandemics and other threats to health, the ever-present threat of nuclear weapons and much more.

Calling for peace is a patriotic act! We have the 20 years of recent history to show that truly, “Violence begets violence.” The staggering amount of money spent – who can comprehend “trillions?” — could change the world for the better.

Don’t we want to see the statistics reverse? To see military deaths diminish until they are nonexistent; to see gun deaths diminish until they are nonexistent; to have scientists report the flourishing of once-endangered species; to hear reports of diminished carbon statistics; as well as diminished suicide numbers; to see prisons decline in population until they have to close; to see all people everywhere having easy access to good food; to see that everyone feels the security of knowing no matter what health issue might come their way they can readily get the quality care they need; to have new generations be perplexed by the phrase “hate crime” because “hate” has become an archaic word?

To the question “What have we accomplished?” I say, “We, along with an increasingly aware humanity, have learned that violence is never the answer.” When violence is off the table, we are compelled to explore dialog with deep listening, empathy that comes with seeing “the other” as a human relative, and to develop a mindset of solidarity. We know that the common good must be pursued. We know a better world is within our reach!


Rita Sloan is a long-time member of the small local group called Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace and the Coordinator for the Alternatives to Violence Project Nevada. Her other part-time job is as Coordinator for the Life Peace & Justice Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Reno, Nev.

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