John Dear

On the road to peace in Scotland
Oct 1, 2013
by John Dear

Last month, I spent nearly two glorious weeks traveling through Scotland, speaking on peace and nonviolence. Here is a little diary from my journey on the road to peace in Scotland.

Wednesday, Sept. 11: Edinburgh.

I left New York City yesterday after nearly a week with my friend Daniel Berrigan. At 92, he's frail and lives permanently now in the Jesuit infirmary, but his spirit is strong. We drove with Fr. Steve Kelly to Syracuse, N.Y., to visit Dan's older brother, Jerry. Then Steve and I spent the weekend on Block Island, R.I., celebrating the wedding of our friends Barbara and Jim Reale. It was a magnificent occasion, with sunny weather, a cool breeze and great friends from around the country. We took the ferry back to Galilee early Monday morning and spent the rest of Monday again with Dan, reflecting on our lives, our friends and our poor world.

I landed in London and ran across Heathrow through customs and various terminals and barely made my flight to Scotland. I arrived in Edinburgh by noon and went immediately to the BBC Scotland offices, just off the Royal Mile, to record an hourlong interview for their popular national Sunday show, "Sunday Morning with ..." One feature of their program is to play favorite songs of their guests. I requested songs by the Beatles, U2 and Joan Baez. So the show began with Baez's "Blessed Are..." and gave me a chance to talk about her passion for peace.

Later, I walked around Edinburgh, one of my favorite cities, and joined the Jesuits at the Sacred Heart Church community on Lauriston Street, just off the Grassmarket, for dinner. They spoke of the exciting election one year from now, when the Scots have the chance to vote for independence. I hope they will. Independence means the chance, too, to vote against the presence of British nuclear weapons and Trident submarines at Faslane naval base in Scotland.

Part of my reason for coming to Scotland is to encourage activists and church workers across the country to do what they can with this historic opportunity to get rid of nukes and send a signal to the world that the time has come to abolish nuclear weapons.

Tonight, I'm exhausted, but thrilled to be back in Edinburgh. I give thanks for the chance to return here, see friends and speak on the urgent need for disarmament and peace.

Thursday, Sept. 12: Glasgow

Jet lag! I was up early, so I set off for a morning walk on the cobblestoned streets of old Edinburgh. A cool, sunny day. I'm staying in the heart of the old city, just a few blocks from the towering mountain with the majestic castle on top. After a restful morning, I took a train west to Glasgow, where I was met by my friend Dermot Lamb, who organized my trip. Dermot is a longtime justice and peace activist who has worked for decades with SCIAF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, the Catholic development agency in Scotland) and Justice and Peace Scotland, the main sponsors of my speaking tour. He took me to the Jesuit community at St. Aloysius' College, the large Jesuit elementary and high school in the heart of the city, where I will be staying and speaking.

Tonight, I spoke to a gathering of the Glasgow Catholic Worker at the Craighead Institute. I reflected on Dorothy Day's life, the vision of nonviolence, the witness of Jesus and the historic opportunities at hand. I was so moved by these good people, who do what they can to welcome the stranger, stand up for peace and live Dorothy's Gospel vision. They told me that the main problem in Scotland is apathy, indifference. Why care about the violent world when you live in a peaceful paradise? They struggle each day to break through indifference. The great struggle!

[Extract from National Catholic Reporter]