Friday, June 29, 2007

Camping in Queensland

Yeah, we've all seen the Queensland advertisements. Beautiful one day, perfect the next, right? How about beautiful one day, awful the next, even worse the next, just as bad, awful, etc. etc. and then maybe beautiful again when you're about to leave? Seriously, it rained every day we were there, almost constantly, and was about 13 degrees at most. Here's the transformation of the caravan park we stayed in over the time we were there. A true Queensland winter advertisement - beautiful one day, quagmire the next. And to think this is the dry season! I stitched them together from a few pictures. Click for enlargements.

And here's my humble abode for the weekend (yes, I stayed in the trailer - which, when covered with the tarpaulin, was by far and away the driest place in camp) - I like to call this one "a river runs through it".

So if you're from Melbourne and heading north for better weather in the wintertime...don't believe the hype! ;)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

a piece of brilliance from Sarah Williams

Fellow Shoalwater 5 member Sarah Williams just sent this through...absolutely brilliant.

I dream of a day when the story that is told in the news is not about missing persons, arrests, indecent exposure or billion dollar war ships. I dream of a day when the stories that are told are of the brave people who gathered for the Peace Convergence in June 2007 to protest Operation Talisman Sabre where approx 26,000 U.S. and Australian troops practiced for war in Shoalwater Bay, QLD. Their message was very simple but profound: “We want to live in a world of peace and not war.”

The stories not told are those of the people willing to step over the line saying we do not accept your barbwire fences, your blank faces and your lies about sovereignty. The stories not told are of a young man who was arrested for doing the hokey pokey;

A couple of young lovers exposing their nakedness and their humanity declaring love not war;

A story of whole communities in their diversity working together for a common goal;

A group of seven comrades prepared to risk their lives whilst camping in pristine national park, which happens to be military training ground the size of Belgium;

Another group who do what Australians love most – spending time at the beach;

A group of five Christian activists who walked down Samuel Hill tarmac wanting to play peace games not war games;

Stories of thousands marching together in colour and slendour to the beat of a different drum;

Independent media who follow their hearts in living for the truth;

Stories of strong women leaders from the Darumbal people (indigenous tribe of the area), from Hawaii and Guam who tell tales of what the U.S. bases have done in their countries;

Of a photographer who continues to be persecuted for taking photographs of deformed children from the effects of the Gulf War;

The forgotten people who really are heroes.

Australia needs to wake up from its comfort and lives lived in fear and start opening up our hearts to the atrocities that go on every day in this world even in our own backyard. We need to ask the question: “Does our affluence fuel our apathy?” We need to say no to that plasma screen, a new flashy car and yes to our neighbours who are dying everyday in unnecessary wars. Our governments need to start operating under true democracy where people have freedom of speech and a right to stand up for what they believe in.

Sadly, these stories will not be told because of big dollars and control. I was one of the five who was voluntarily arrested on Samuel Hill airbase on the 21st June. I walked down the tarmac with four other Christian activists armed with a peace flag, a Frisbee, two letters for the U.S. and Australian and the hope for dialogue. Before we were finally taken by police we enjoyed many in depth conversations with military personnel who shared their inner feelings about the Iraq war and what they saw there (e.g. use of depleted uranium and its effects). We got to share about our concerns for their lives and civilian’s lives and about our worry over the environmental effects that war and these games have. To my utter disbelief the hypothetical mission for the day at the games was in regards to potential “terrorists” coming into the country to destroy what is ours. We pointed out to them that we could have been those “terrorists” and just because we are Aussies does not mean we were not capable. We were just everyday Australians armed with another message: Love at all costs! As we were driven out I saw tanks and soldiers scattered all throughout the bush that had cease-fired as the base was closed whilst we were on the grounds. That day our concerns for our friend’s safety that were still on the base went to parliament, as no one believed it was possible. To me it was worth it just to have the conversation we wouldn’t have had whilst we were kept in silence. Please don’t silence it anymore!

As all the protesters go home the local are left with the night sky blaring, the sound of bombing, their homes shaking and the real threat that because this base is located where it is they will be a likely target. These exercises this year will continue until the 2nd July and will go on every two years for the next twenty years or so. Australia continues to spend $55 million a day on its military whilst where I live in Doveton, Victoria many social problems are unaddressed and experienced daily such as lack of affordable housing, social isolation, mental health issues, lack of education to name a few.

For more information please contact:

For our press release (June 21st, 2007) please look at the link “Activists Still Inside War Games Zone, More Go In: Press Conference in Action.”

Sarah Williams – 0418 146 601

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

From the West Australian

Just for the record, we weren't 'picked up'...we went looking for them, and they took some finding! And contrary to the article, we were arrested and have been charged with trespass under the Commonwealth Crimes Act.

Protesters picked up during war games
21st June 2007, 15:47 WST

Authorities have picked up a group of Christian activists protesting in the midst of a large-scale military exercise involving Australian and US troops in central Queensland, police say.

The protesters had infiltrated the joint military exercise, Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, near Rockhampton, which is the main site for the exercise involving 7,500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, 20,000 US troops, 125 aircraft and 30 ships.

They were protesting against the US-led war in Iraq and the exercise's impact on the environmentally sensitive area.

On Tuesday, protesters claimed seven activists had entered the training area - an area larger than Belgium - and planned to camp there as long as possible.

Spokeswoman Treena Lenthall said two more groups entered the base on Wednesday night.

A Queensland police spokeswoman confirmed that a group of protesters had been found on the ADF land.

One of the groups released a statement earlier saying they intended to disrupt the war games and speak to the soldiers taking part.

"As followers of the non-violent Jesus, we cannot stand by while our country plans the destruction of our brothers and sisters in other countries and the environment here at Shoalwater Bay," a statement by the group said.

"We do not take these actions lightly but with an awareness that the gravity of our actions pales in comparison to the crimes of the Australian and US military this week."

The police spokeswoman said no arrests or charges had been made as yet.

Protesters said another group, and possibly a second, was still in the exercise area and planned to stay there as long as possible.

An ADF spokeswoman has confirmed there will be live firing later in the exercise, which began on Tuesday and ends on July 2.

Peace activists have a responsibility not to expose themselves to risk while protesting, the federal government says.

Human Services Minister Chris Ellison, speaking for Defence Minister Brendan Nelson in the Senate, said the Department of Defence respected people's right to exercise their freedom of speech.

But those who protested unlawfully could not expect the same protection as those who did so lawfully, he said.

"There's no concern about lawful protest, but if people go beyond the law in what is a lawful right to freedom of speech and expose themselves to risk that makes it all the more difficult for authorities in dealing with that issue," he said.

"The safety of people in that circumstance is regarded carefully by defence, but you have to remember than in any of these protests one expects that the protesters act responsibly.

"They do have a responsibility on themselves as to the way they demonstrate."

Senator Ellison had been asked by Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett what steps the Department of Defence was taking to ensure the safety of a group of anti-war protesters who infiltrated the joint US-Australian exercise Talisman Sabre in Queensland's Shoalwater Bay.

In a media statement Senator Bartlett condemned the government. He said the coalition's foreign policy now extended to "ignoring the direct threats" to Australian citizens.

"The government can disagree with these activists' motivations or methods, but they cannot pretend they don't exist," Senator Bartlett said.

And he said the Talisman Sabre exercise was nothing to do with preparing Australia's defence forces for peacekeeping missions.

"They are about subsuming the Australian Defence Forces even further into the US military machine," Senator Bartlett said.

Thomas Merton on results

Every time I contemplate a direct action, I run it through this quote, and every time I go into a direct action I read it before I do it. It's been incredibly meaningful again this week with our Shoalwater Bay actions. It's a section from a letter that Thomas Merton wrote to Jim Forest at a time when the peace movement seemed to be stalling, and Jim was feeling dispirited. It is as relevant now as it was then:
"Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself...So the next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work and your witness. You are using it so to speak to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God's love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be freed from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it."
I know that so often I find myself trying to do what is pragmatic, what will achieve results. I find myself building an identity in my peace work; often to protect myself against nothingness, or to prove myself. This quote reminds me of the folly of those approaches. And so, as we stood at the fence, immediately before we entered the base, after having read this many times in previous days, I turned to the other four and said,"We do this because of love. Because God first loves us, and loves them." It was such a centred, sacred moment, and I knew we'd left all of that behind, open to "the power that will work through you without your knowing it".

Lots more to come on the Shoalwater Bay stuff, but wanted to put this in first.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

St Ephraem

Fantastic Wikipedia entry on him here, and his significance to the early church. Normally I'd post a brief summary so it stays interesting, but this is all great stuff! Well worth checking out.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Presenting the latest Apple product: The iRack.

Corpus Christi (feast)

From the Wikipedia entry:
Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ) is a Christian feast in honour of the Holy Eucharist. It was originally assigned to the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, thereby mirroring Holy Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week, the day on which Christians commemorate The Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his apostles, seen as the first Holy Eucharist. From 2007 the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday - on the Sunday after the traditional Thursday celebration in other countries.

The appearance of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar was primarily due to the petitions of the thirteenth-century Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège. From her youth she claimed that God had been instructing her to establish a feast day for the Eucharist and later in life petitioned the learned Dominican Hugh of St-Cher, Jacques Pantaléon (Archdeacon of Liège and later Pope Urban IV) and Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert convened a synod and ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year thereafter. The decree is preserved in Anton Joseph Binterim's Vorzüglichsten Denkwürdigkeiten der Christkatholischen Kirche, together with parts of the first liturgy written for the occasion.

The celebration of Corpus Christi only became widespread after both Juliana and Bishop Robert had died. In 1263, Jacques Pantaléon, now Pope Urban IV, investigated claims of a miracle in which blood had issued from a host. One alternate theory is that the blood was actually a clustering of Serratia marcescens, a reddish bacteria that often grows on bread. Regardless, in 1264 he issued the papal bull Transiturus in which Corpus Christi was made a feast day. A new liturgy for the celebration was written by Thomas Aquinas.

While the institution of the Eucharist is celebrated on Holy Thursday, the joy of what is referred to in Greek as "the Holy Gift" (τὸ Ἅγιον Δῶρον) cannot on that occasion be well expressed, because of the nearness of Good Friday. This is given as a reason for celebrating the Corpus Christi feast at a different time of year.
In other news, I just discovered that the US Navy named one of their nuclear-powered submarines the USS Corpus Christi. Irony, anyone? No? Blasphemy then?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

St Norbert

From here, complete with terrible puns: Friends sometimes jokingly mangle the name of the Premonstratensians into “Monstrous Pretensions,” just as the Franciscan O.F.M. is said to mean “Out For Money.” The name actually derives from Premontre, the region of France where Norbert established this Order in the 12th century.

Recalling the nickname, Norbert’s founding of the Order was in truth a monstrous task: combating rampant heresies (particularly regarding the Blessed Sacrament), revitalizing many of the faithful who had grown indifferent and dissolute, plus effecting peace and reconciliation among enemies.

Norbert entertained no pretensions about his own ability to accomplish this multiple task. Even with the aid of a goodly number of men who joined his Order, he realized that nothing could be effectively done without God’s power. Finding this help especially in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he and his Norbertines praised God for success in converting heretics, reconciling numerous enemies and rebuilding faith in indifferent believers.

Reluctantly, Norbert became archbishop of Magdeburg in central Germany, a territory half pagan and half Christian. In this position he zealously and courageously continued his work for the Church until his death on June 6, 1134.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

St Boniface

Whoops, I've fallen a little behind. Nonetheless, I soldier on (what a terrible phrase). From here: Boniface, known as the apostle of the Germans, was an English Benedictine monk who gave up being elected abbot to devote his life to the conversion of the Germanic tribes. Two characteristics stand out: his Christian orthodoxy and his fidelity to the pope of Rome.

How absolutely necessary this orthodoxy and fidelity were is borne out by the conditions he found on his first missionary journey in 719 at the request of Pope Gregory II. Paganism was a way of life. What Christianity he did find had either lapsed into paganism or was mixed with error. The clergy were mainly responsible for these latter conditions since they were in many instances uneducated, lax and questionably obedient to their bishops. In particular instances their very ordination was questionable.

These are the conditions that Boniface was to report in 722 on his first return visit to Rome. The Holy Father instructed him to reform the German Church. The pope sent letters of recommendation to religious and civil leaders. Boniface later admitted that his work would have been unsuccessful, from a human viewpoint, without a letter of safe-conduct from Charles Martel, the powerful Frankish ruler, grandfather of Charlemagne. Boniface was finally made a regional bishop and authorized to organize the whole German Church. He was eminently successful.

In the Frankish kingdom, he met great problems because of lay interference in bishops’ elections, the worldliness of the clergy and lack of papal control.

During a final mission to the Frisians, he and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for Confirmation.

In order to restore the Germanic Church to its fidelity to Rome and to convert the pagans, he had been guided by two principles. The first was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops in union with the pope of Rome. The second was the establishment of many houses of prayer which took the form of Benedictine monasteries. A great number of Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns followed him to the continent. He introduced Benedictine nuns to the active apostolate of education.

assuming the best

As part of our solidarity actions for the Pine Gap 4, we (a bunch of us from CAN) had planned to attempt a conversation with the "enemy". I put that in parentheses because we didn't really see them as the enemy as such - more like opponents, or those with whom we were locked in a struggle. We did not, however, expect to get an appointment, and had planned for contingencies. That turned out to be a good thing, because after initial contact, there was some reticence. Pushing harder in negotiations meant we got our appointment.

So last Friday Christop, Simon Reeves and I went off to the US consulate in St Kilda Road to chat with the Vice Consul there about Pine Gap. We went with two primary concerns: firstly, the secrecy that surrounds the base. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which was a parliamentary committee appointed to assess whether or not it was in Australia's national interest to continue the treaty that enables the US to use Pine Gap, complained that they were privy to "as much information as can be found in a public library". They particularly took issue with the stonewalling of the Defence Department in relation to information that was required for them to make an informed decision. The information never came; regardless, they rubber stamped the treaty.

There is also a concern over the discrepancy between Australian and US access to the base. Members of US Congress can have full tours of the base, where Australian Parliamentarians cannot. The restrictions on Australians seem to be much tighter than the US. This is of concern when you have less access to your own land than a foreign nation.

The second major concern was the compromising of Australian sovereignty that bases like Pine Gap and Geraldton and Shoalwater Bay represent. The US cannot prosecute a war without the help of Pine Gap, which means that regardless of whether Australia is actively involved in a conflict the US wants to pursue, we are complicit in it. One wonders what would happen if an Australian government actually opposed a war the US was determined to prosecute; I suspect we'll never find out.

Anyway, though I won't go into detail about the meeting itself, suffice to say we were pleasantly surprised. Though the security is insanely tight there (said the VC on my arrival after the final round of inspections, "At least you feel safe now, hey?") it was great to get in a room and have a conversation, enabling us to see the people behind the policies. Mostly I was interested in listening, hearing what she had to say about her ideas and our ideas. Again, this turned out to be much more of a conversion for us, in that (as usual) just getting around a table with someone different made for increased understanding.

Again, Christop's account can be found here.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Most Holy Trinity

"There is something different about the feast day we celebrate today, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and the feasts we have been celebrating most recently, such as Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, or the Ascension of Jesus, which we celebrated a couple weeks ago, where Jesus makes his final departure from his disciples and they don't experience his bodily presence any longer, or last week when we celebrated the feast of Pentecost. That was a very powerful experience of those first disciples of the church, when the spirit of Jesus was poured forth upon them, made their hearts burn with love and forced them almost to go out into the streets and proclaim the good news.

Those feasts have concrete experiences behind them. They celebrate something concrete and real that happened in history. There's nothing so concrete, so real, in a sense, about today's feast, the Feast of the Trinity."

(The rest of this sermon from John Dear's friend Bishop Tom Gumbleton can be found here.)