Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A message from David Bradbury

In case you don't know who David Bradbury is, check out his profile here. We hung out with him a bit up at Talisman Sabre and he's been doing this stuff for years - amazing stories, but most of all an incredibly knowledgeable person. So this is well worth a read - it's a letter he wrote to all of us regarding uranium mining and the nuclear issue:
A message to all Activists from David Bradbury:
Yeppoon June 20,2007
Email contact: ahardrain@aapt.net.au

Dear Activists,

Thank you for your commitment to make the big effort to come to Shoalwater for these actions of the past week. Please keep 'the faith' on this issue when you return home. Let your friends know so they will come to the actions in 2009. Inevitably it will be an ongoing campaign to chase the US military out of our country and alert our fellow Australians to the moral and environmental consequences of supporting a US military 'lifestyle' based on an ongoing commitment to war.

As you know, any US administration whether its Bush (Republican) or the Democrats uses the military to advance its economic and political goals to dominate the world. And as Helen Caldicott pointed out in her speech at the Yeppoon townhall, the next step in that plan is to use space to control everything that moves on land, on sea or through the air.

Rumsfeld, Downer and co when they signed. that secret pact in 2004 to exploit Shoalwater Bay and Australia euphemistically called it a missile 'defence' system. But its 'offensive' in nature and intent. In order to put space platforms up there and maintain them all year round, they need tremendous amounts of energy. Fossil fuels won't do it. They need our uranium to power the space platforms into orbit. They need our uranium to make the nuclear warheads. And like Shoalwater Bay with its 'wide open spaces' and the deserts of NT to test their latest space age guided missiles, they need a place to dump the nuclear waste that nobody on mainland America is willing to take.

Step one is already in place. As you know, both major parties are now committed to open slather uranium mining. Step five is in place. The Federal government has paid $12million and bought Aboriginal approval for a nuclear waste dump at Tennant Creek right next to the Halliburton built and controlled rail link from Darwin.

Australia sits on 40% of the world's uranium. I cannot stress enough how critical the coming months are going to be leading into the federal election. If the nuclear lobby has its way it will be disastrous for Australia, disastrous for the world. We have to get candidates elected to the Senate who can block the legislation approving more uranium mines. Labor and Howard won't do it.

In making A Hard Rain (my latest anti-nuclear doco) I explored the latest research on radiation exposure. Scary stuff. It reveals that a double strand break occurs in the DNA - the blueprint of life itself - at radiation exposure levels far lower than what the health authorities are leading us to believe. Scientists agree that the double strand break (DSB) in the DNA is the precursor to cancer and birth defects.

If like the Labor party, we selfishly put aside the morality of shipping our yellowcake overseas to impact on others, there's still a huge 'what's in it for us?' reason to oppose uranium mining. Our very survival.

When uranium is mined, 80% of the radiation is left behind in the discarded tailings once the yellow cake (uranium oxide) is taken out for export. Radioactive lead, bismuth, polonium, radium and thorium. The miners just dump it at the mine site in huge mountains because it has no commercial value. The great concern for us as Australians is the radiation is now up on the surface in finely pulverised form to blow in the wind to any corner of Australia. Easily. It can and will also enter the underground water table via the tailings dams to travel far off site. Its blowing in the wind and weeping into the water.

Like exploded 'depleted' uranium particles, these tiny dust size specs from uranium mining waste are alpha radiation emitters. The most deadly form of radiation. Once breathed in or ingested into the body, they have dire consequences. They impact on the cells and potentially damage the DNA. The double strand break. Radiation doesn't have to come to you in the air from a nuclear power plant or bomb.

Consider this one fact alone: BHPBilliton's Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia is seeking to triple its uranium output. If approved, the company will bring to the surface of Australia 40 million tonnes of radioactive ore each year for the next 50-100 years. Forty million tonnes of radioactive waste ground into dust form and dumped there each year! Radioactive to blow around Australia in the wind for the next 250,000 years. A cancer epidemic of unquantifiable proportions emitting from the centre of Australia coast to coast is what we're looking at. The radiation genie out of the bottle that cannot be put back.

What can I say? The politicians aren't listening. Like the impossibility of stopping Talisman Sabre overnight, I haven't got many immediate answers in the face of a similar mainstream media blackout on the uranium/nuclear issue that we've faced on Talisman. I do know that we have to oppose it with all our might. And there is strength in numbers and our collective imagination when we come together with a common purpose as we have for Shoalwater.

You are the' shock troops' who had enough concern and awareness to come to Shoalwater Bay. I'm appealing to you now when you go home to switch your energy immediately over to fight for this big one before the federal elections.

In the coming weeks go to www.frontlinefilms.com.au/blog website and other links from that site as we build an overnight campaign of what we need to do. In lieu of any mainstream media coverage to generate publicity or genuine debate on 'our side' to the nuclear issue, we will have to use the internet and word of mouth with friends to build a big grassroots movement virtually overnight to fight the mainstream parties on this issue. I'm knackered myself. Not just from helping organise the Shoalwater campaign. It hasn't stopped since I made Blowin' in the Wind. But we can't give up and take a break just yet. Not until the federal election is over at least.

Regards and hang on for the ride!

David Bradbury
So if you get a chance, get along to the screening of his new film on Thursday at 6:30. It's called "A Hard Rain" and will be showing at Trades Hall (corner Lygon and Victoria Sts Carlton). It's a film giving the "other side of the nuclear debate". Entry $10/$8. More info at http://www.nukefreeaus.org/.

St. Sharbel Makhlouf

Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra, where he was born, his influence has spread widely.

Joseph Zaroun Maklouf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853 and was ordained six years later.

Following the example of the fifth-century St. Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.

He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1965 and canonized him in 1977.


So it's been a while since I've posted anything on the saints' days. Rather than going back and trying to catch up, I'll start again from now. Hopefully the ones who missed out won't hold it against me. :D

As far as other stuff going on, I've decided to plead not guilty at my mention next week (August 2). That means a trial later in the year. That's kind of cool. Lots to think through there, and it's been a huge decision to make. If I get 5 minutes I might try and get down some of the process to making it, but there's so much else on it's not likely. So of the five of us, the four from Melbourne are pleading not guilty, and Carole from Brisbane is pleading guilty.

Had Urban Seed staff retreat last week, which was good and frustrating and fun and challenging and meaningful and exhausting. Got to go to the beach one evening as the sun was setting, and even though it was freezing it was incredibly beautiful:

You get the idea. It was great just to spend some time with the whole mob, 'cos we don't get to do that very often.

More of Thomas Merton on results

I recently posted a quote from a letter that Thomas Merton wrote to Jim Forest, and then I re-read the whole letter last night and think it is worth presenting here in its entirety. As long as it is, devote some time to reading it. It is eerie how similar the situation is to today: replace 'Vietnam' with 'Iraq', and 'Catholic' with 'Christian' and there's not a whole lot of difference. The only problem is: where are the Mertons today to give clarity and perspective like this?
On February 15 Forest wrote that he was in a bleak mood; no one seemed to be listening to CPF (Catholic Peace Fellowship). “I feel like an ant climbing a cliff, and even worse, for in the distance there seems to be an avalanche…Perhaps you have some thoughts that would help?”

Thanks for the letter and for the awful, and illuminating, enclosure. I can well understand your sense of desperation. And the “bleak mood.” And also I am glad that you wrote about it. As you say, there are no clear answers, and you can guess that I don’t have magic solutions for bleak moods: if I did I would use them on my own which are habitually pretty bleak too. But that is just part of this particular life and I don’t expect much else.

Actually, I would say one thing that probably accounts for your feelings, besides all the objective and obvious reasons, you are doubtless tired. I don’t know whether you are physically tired or not but you have certainly been pouring your emotional and psychic energy into the CPF and all that it stands for, and you have been sustained by hopes that are now giving out. Hence the reaction. Well, the first thing is that you have to go through this kind of reaction periodically, learn to expect it and cope with it when it comes, don’t do things that precipitate it, without necessity (you will always have to).

And then this: 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. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, as you yourself mention in passing, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated with ideals and with causes. This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic. Going through this kind of reaction helps you to guard against this. Your system is complaining of too much verbalizing, and it is right.

This country is SICK, man. It is one of the sickest thing that has happened. People are fed on myths, they are stuffed up to the eyes with illusions. They CAN'T think straight. They have a modicum of good will, and some of them have a whole lot of it, but with the mental bombardment everybody lives under, it is just not possible to see straight, no matter where you are looking. The average everyday 'Catlick' is probably in worse shape than a lot of others. He has in his head a few principles of faith which lend no coherence whatsoever to his life. No one has ever sought any coherence from him or given him the idea that he needed any. All he has been asked to do has been to measure up to a few simple notions about sexual morality (which he may or may not quite make, but anyway he knows where he stands - or falls on his face) and he has been taught that the cross and sacrifice in his life mean in practice going off to war every twenty years or so. He has done this with exemplary, unquestioning generosity, and has reaped the results: a corresponding brutalization, which is not his fault and which he thinks has something to do with being a real human being. In this whole area of war and peace, no matter what the Council may have said about the average layman and the average priest are all alike conditioned by this mentality. Furthermore, when it is a question of a kind of remote box score of casualties which gives meaning to life each day, they no longer think of these casualties as people, it is just a score. Also they don't want to think of them as people, they want casualties, they want someone to get it, because they have been brutalized and this is a fully legitimate way of indulging the brutality that has been engendered in them. It is not only for country, it is even for God.

You can be as indignant as you like about this: and it is sickening, but being indignant has its disadvantages. It gets you into the same damn-fool game. Take the myth of “getting results.” What is the driving power behind the massive stupidity in Vietnam, with its huge expense and its absurd effects? It is the obsession of the American mind with the myth of know-how, and with the capacity to be omnipotent. Once this is questioned, we will go to any lengths, ANY lengths to resolve the doubt that has thus been raised in our minds. The whole cockeyed American myth is at stake in Vietnam and what is happening to it is obvious, it is tearing itself into little shreds and the nation is half nuts in consequence. The national identity is going slowly down the drain in VN and a lot of terrible things are happening in the process. We are learning how bestial and how incredible are the real components of that myth. Vietnam is the psychoanalysis of the U.S. I wonder if the nation can come out of it and survive. I have a hunch we might be able to. But your stresses and strains, mind, Dan’s, all of them, are all part of this same syndrome, and it is extremely irritating to find oneself, like it or not, involved in the national madness. The fact that you and I and our type have a special answer which runs counter to that of the majority seems at first to make us sane, but does it really? Does it save us from being part of the same damn mess? Obviously not. Theoretically we understand that, but in fact our hearts will not admit it, and we are trying to prove to ourselves that (a) we at least are sane decent people, (b) sanity and decency are such that our sanity and decency ought to influence everybody else. And there is something to this, I am not preaching a complete anomie. Yet the others think the same about themselves.

In a word, you have said a lot of good things, you have got a lot of ideas across, it has perhaps caused some good reactions among the bad and what has it achieved in terms of the whole national picture: precious little. The CPF is not going to stop the war in Vietnam, and it is not even going to cause very many Catholics to think differently about war and peace. It is simply going to be another image among images, in the minds of most Catholics, something around which are centered some vague emotional reactions, for or against. Nevertheless, you will probably, if you continue as you do, begin the laborious job of changing the national mind and opening up the national conscience. How far will you get? God alone knows. All that you and I can ever hope for in terms of visible results is that we will have perhaps contributed something to a clarification of Christian truth in this society, and as a result a few people may have got straight about some things and opened up to the grace of God and made some sense out of their lives, helping a few more to do the same. As for the big results, these are not in your hands or mine, but they can suddenly happen, and we can share in them: but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.

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 free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.

The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration and confusion. I hope we can avoid a world war: but do we deserve to? I am not thinking so much of ourselves and this country but of all the people who would be killed who never heard of New York and of the U.S.A. even, perhaps. It is a pity that they should have to pay for our stupidity and our sins.

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand.

Thomas Merton to Jim Forest, February 21st 1966: from The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters.
I'm also writing an article on nonviolence, and intend to use these ideas to argue for "faithfulness, not effectiveness" as primary in the struggle for justice.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Birds of pray

Every morning we’d been woken by the kookaburras. If you’ve ever been camping, you’d know that birds are often the first creatures stirring in the morning, but ordinarily you’d expect peaceful twittering, not the raucous laughter of the kookaburra. But there they were, these iconic Australian birds, day after day, faithfully rousing us from our slumber with their mirthful calls.

We were camping at a caravan park in Yeppoon, almost 150 of the 300 people who had converged from around Australia to demonstrate a peaceful alternative to war. Just a few kilometres up the road, the Australian and US militaries were practicing to kill; Operation Talisman Sabre they called it, a series of live fire exercises including bombing and short range missile attacks. Projectiles cutting their destructive way through the sky, ultimately crashing to earth with explosive ferocity. Beautiful, pristine earth, thousands of years old rainforest with untold complexity of ecosystems; destroyed in a split second of human malevolence.

Birds, of course, have a special place as God’s messengers in biblical stories. From the dove that Noah sent out from the ark, which has become the universal symbol of peace, to the ravens feeding Elijah in the wilderness; from the Spirit that descends upon Jesus like a dove at his baptism to his likening himself to a hen brooding over her chicks. In the indigenous lore in the place where I’m from, Melbourne, Australia the creator spirit is known as Bunjil, the eagle. Birds have a special place in spiritual lore; they soar above us, majestic, mysterious, floating near the heavens, seemingly untouched, unreachable by we earth-bound creatures.

Five of us from the peace convergence decided to oppose the war games by walking openly onto the base to request that they be stopped. In fact, we were positing an alternative; bringing a frisbee with us, we wanted to invite the soldiers to stop their war games in favour of peace games. A peaceful projectile floating gently between people, connecting them in the name of fun. We were aware, of course, that by setting foot on the base it would be likely to raise the ire of those who were conducting the exercises; soldiers, probably armed, and in aggressive mode. We wanted to be ready in ourselves for the likely aggression we would encounter. Choosing early morning as the most likely time to go undetected, we jokingly coded our entry time as, “When the kookaburras laugh.”

The whole week had been spent preparing, but it was essential that we be centred in ourselves at the moment of entry. After waking at 5:30am, we met together to pray; to respond to the Spirit’s leading, to act out of love rather than fear. Sitting in a circle, we descended into a period of silence. Connected in such a powerful way in such a powerful moment, I felt enfolded in the Spirit of Life that surrounded us. Quietly we began to sing, then hear from the Beatitudes, then a Thomas Merton quote. The formalities over, we had only to wait on the Spirit for leading.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the silence was broken by the laugh of a single solitary kookaburra. We opened our eyes, looked at each other, and joined in the laughter. No one needed to say anything; we were ready.

We walked for three hours through the bush to reach the fence; the five of us with our cameraman and documentary filmmaker Dujon. Dujon had journeyed the whole week with us, present for our planning, our meetings, our prayer times. We had grown close to each other, and as the time came for our entry, he was increasingly concerned for us and our safety. While not a Christian himself, Dujon had a keen sense of how important our faith was, and how it connected us to every living thing around us. Nonetheless, when he left us at the fence, he felt keenly aware of the risk we were taking. His return journey would be filled with questions for our welfare.

Until, as he rounded a bend in the road, he was stopped in his tracks by an eagle. Standing in the middle of the road as he approached, it turned and looked at him. With piercing eyes, it stared into him; then turning its head, it crouched, sprang into the air and flappings its powerful wings, flew into the sky. Dujon later told us that he knew at that moment that we would be ok; that this eagle had been sent to reassure him, and that it would watch over us. He continued on his return journey in that confidence.

We walked onto the main base in total confidence in the God of peace; not for one second did we feel unsafe. As we were arrested and taken outside the gates in the police car, a jet roared overhead. A bird of death disturbing the birds of life.

The following Sunday morning, out on bail, we attended Quaker meeting. Quaker meetings are usually silent affairs, waiting on the Spirit’s leading and prompting. Occasionally someone might speak, to bring a “word of ministry” for the group.

On this occasion several people spoke; but one stood out in particular. A lady who had been participating in the peace convergence all week was walking to the gates of the military base. With a group of 150 people, she had walked past a police road block and now found herself meandering slowly enough to be left behind by the group. As she walked silently down the dirt road, two emus emerged from the bush to her left. Immediately she stopped in her tracks as they stepped hesitantly out onto the road, watching her. It was, she recounted, a God moment; she spoke to them, telling them of her desire for peace for their home, for their families, for herself, and how she was working towards it. She apologised on behalf of the human race for all we had done to harm them They continued to watch her as she spoke, and as she talked that morning she recounted a sense of acknowledgment; that they heard her, and thanked her for all we were doing.

Kookaburras, eagles, and emus. All native birds, all part of the majestic ecosystem of the Shoalwater Bay wilderness, all significant messengers of God, symbols of the Spirit, present and at work. I thank God for the way we were looked after by God’s Spirit – undoubtedly present in unseen and unnoticed ways – but visible to us in these winged messengers.

peace games interviews

If you're interested in listening to a couple of interviews I've done, the links are below. Right click and then "Save Target As" to download them.

RTR fm (Perth Community Radio) (3.5 mb)

Sonshine fm (Perth Christian Radio station (6 mb)

Rodney Olsen who interviewed me on Sonshine fm also has a post about it on his blog here.

Thanks to Jarrod for getting me these gigs.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Imagining Peace – A Statement

This is the statement we released before we went in...it was changed a little by the pc (that's 'peace convergence', not 'politically correct') media people, but not drastically. Anyway, this is the original.

We are 5 nonviolent Christian people who like the prophet Isaiah are working towards the day when people will “beat swords into plowshares and study war no more”. As followers of the nonviolent Jesus we cannot stand by while our country plans the destruction of our brothers and sisters in other countries and the environment at Shoalwater Bay.

We plan to enter the base to disrupt these military exercises with our presence. We do so openly and honestly without deception and while actively seeking out military personnel with whom to dialogue. We do not take these actions lightly but with an awareness that the gravity of our actions pales in comparison to the crimes of Australian and US militaries this week. The destruction of pristine wilderness with unique and endangered wildlife is unacceptable as is the increased reliance on violent methods of conflict resolution. We take these actions because all other legal attempts to stop the exercise have failed.

People are likely to say that we have no respect for the law: not so. Rather we say with Martin Luther King Jr. and in accordance with the principles of nonviolence. “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

We believe that practicing for war only means more war. That is why we must imagine peace, embody peace, practice peace.

Another world is possible – that is why we act.

Our letter to the Generals

Dear Australian and US forces participating in Operation Talisman Sabre,

We are five unarmed, nonviolent Christians who are extremely concerned about the military exercises in which you are taking part. We are here only to invite you to dialogue and exchange ideas. We would like to see these preparations for war cease, and preparations for peace begin. Thus we come here to invite you to play peace games with us, and stop the war games. We do so, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to pay the penalty”.

We have been inspired in our actions by people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day, who committed their lives to nonviolence and who bore the costs of it. On the night before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It’s nonviolence or nonexistence.” I’m sure the fragile ecosystems of Shoalwater Bay would agree; as would the estimated 655,000 Iraqis who have died in the Iraq war, and the 3,500 Coalition soldiers. And so we work towards a world with no war.

In this cause we have written letters, had street marches, and held public meetings, yet still we have had no response. And so, as the saying goes, “If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain.”

Now we place the choice before you: the way of life or the way of death; construction or destruction; nonviolence or nonexistence. We urge you to train for peace, by discovering the power of nonviolence. This is by no means an easy road as we, even today, are finding out. But this is the most important task of our lives; we dare not fail, and we invite you to join us in it.

With love,

Simon, Simon, Krystal, Carole, and Sarah.

Shoalwater Bay peace convergence report

I thought it might be useful to provide a fuller explanation of some of our actions up in Queensland recently. If anyone has any more questions after reading this, please feel free to ask.

The background:
Shoalwater Bay is about 80km north of Rockhampton in central Queensland. As well as being home to endangered dugongs, whales and dolphins, and within the Great Barrier Reef marine park, it is a pristine wilderness area. In the middle of all of this sits the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA), a military base the size of Belgium.

For the past two weeks, over 30,000 Australian and US troops have combined in SWBTA for Operation Talisman Sabre, a series of live fire exercises, including bombings of land and sea and use of active sonar.

For a while now, we as members of the Christian Activist Network have been writing letters, participating in street marches, holding vigils, information nights and public meetings to raise awareness and demonstrate our opposition to these military exercises and other related issues. Of particular concern in this case are the environmental impact (on marine and land life), and the increasing reliance on militarism and war (Australia spends $55m per day on its military). We felt we had exhausted every legal avenue of dissent, and that therefore the actions we took were the next logical step.

As Christians, we follow the tradition of Isaiah who calls us to "beat swords into ploughshares, and train for war no more" (how's that for appropriate?), and most particularly of Jesus who calls us to "love our enemies", "put down our sword" and be "blessed peacemakers". Inspired by people like Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day, we take up the weapon of active nonviolence to work towards those aims. Nonviolence means being neither passive nor violent; it is an active, creative, third way that confronts and transforms oppression and violence.

What happened:
As part of the wider peace convergence, Simon Moyle (Urban Seed, Melbourne), Simon Reeves (Jahwork, Melbourne), Krystal Spencer (Jahwork, Melbourne) and Sarah Williams (Jahwork, Melbourne) travelled to Shoalwater Bay on Jun 17th. Two days later Carole Powell (Pace e Bene Australia, Brisbane) joined us there. After four days of intense planning (preceded by several weeks of planning), and a long walk through the bush in the rain, five of us (all Christians) arrived at the fence which marks the boundary of the restricted military base. Soon after, we entered the military training area, found the main control centre base (Samuel Hill) and walked openly down the middle of the airstrip in an attempt to be as obvious as possible.

The focus for us was threefold:
1. To establish a reasoned and respectful dialogue with the soldiers. As protests are often restricted to yelling from behind a fence, we wanted to change the dynamic, to engage face to face with the people behind the uniform, and for them to do the same with us.
2. At the same time, we knew that any presence of civilians on the base would immediately halt the war games. Therefore another aim was to disrupt the exercises with our presence.
3. We wanted to see the base transformed from somewhere war games were conducted to a place where peace games are played. Hence not only did our presence cause the shutting down of the military activities, but we invited the soldiers to play frisbee with us on the tarmac.

Despite our openness, it took quite some time for anyone to notice us. When they finally did we approached them, assured them that we were unarmed and peaceful, and asked them to play frisbee with us. To our surprise and delight, they did. I asked to see their generals as we had two letters to give them. They then called their commanding officer who shut down the base, and they invited us inside for coffee and lunch. We spent about an hour and a half talking with both Australian and US soldiers about Iraq, violence and nonviolence, and the exercises themselves before being arrested by Queensland police and taken to Rockhampton, where we were charged with trespassing under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. Our first court date is August 2 in the Yeppoon Magistrates Court.

For me this was a deeply empowering experience, and one I have come out of with a clearer sense of the good news of Jesus Christ, as well as solidarity with the oppressed, and a deep experience of the peace, comfort and joy of the Spirit. At no stage did we feel at all nervous or like we were doing something wrong; on the contrary, there was a real freedom and joy to our actions at all times.

If you're interested in hearing more, you can download the 3 1/2mb file of an interview I did with RTRfm, a Perth community radio station I spoke with last Monday afternoon. For anyone in Perth (or with access to the internet), there will also be an interview with me talking about it on Sonshine FM on Wednesday morning (in place of Ross Clifford's normal spot at 10:10am Perth time). My blog will also feature updates and more information as I find time to write more fully about the experience.

We would appreciate your support and prayers as we decide how to plead.

Let me leave you with the question that has shaped and guided Christian Peacemaker Teams the world over: "What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?"