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Mother's Day for Peace: A Blessing

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May opens with a national day of celebration -- Mother's Day. The taproot of Mother's Day is active resistance to injustice and war. In 1858, Anna Jarvis Reeves initiated Mother's Work Days in Appalachian communities to protest the unsanitary conditions which sickened and killed poor workers. Her daughter later lobbied for an annual Mother's Day in honor of her mother's and other mothers' social activism.

In 1870 the suffragist and pacifist Julia Ward Howe -- having witnessed the human carnage and devastation of the Civil War -- lobbied for a national Mother's Day for Peace and called for women to oppose all forms of war. The first Mother's Day was declared in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson without a reference to peace or social justice. It was immediately pounced upon by the gift card, candy and florist industries and exploited henceforth. Mother's Day devolved quickly and quietly into a day filled with sentiment but emptied of social content and history.

Blessing for Mothers Who Are Peacemakers

Blessed is Another Mother for Peace founded during the Vietnam War to educate and inspire women to take action in eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between nations and people. Their stirring declaration of peace, the PAX MATERNA, places the unitive power of mothers' love above the divisive power of paternalistic nationalism:

I JOIN WITH MY SISTERS IN EVERY LAND € ¨ IN THE PAX MATERNA -- € ¨ A PERMANENT DECLARATION OF PEACE THAT TRANSCENDS OUR IDEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES. € ¨ IN THE NUCLEAR SHADOW, WAR IS OBSOLETE. € ¨ I WILL NO LONGER SUFFER IT IN SILENCE € ¨NOR SUSTAIN IT BY COMPLICITY. € ¨ THEY SHALL NOT SEND MY SON € ¨ TO FIGHT ANOTHER MOTHER'S SON. € ¨FOR NOW, FOREVER, THERE IS NO MOTHER € ¨ WHO IS ENEMY TO ANOTHER MOTHER.

Blessed are the generous mothers of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows who forged their grief into action for peace. They opposed the bombing of Afghanistan as a response to their loved ones' deaths; raised funds for Afghan families affected by US military action; and documented their first trip to Afghanistan in the educational film "Civilian Casualties."

Blessed are the steadfast mothers in Military Families Against the War who exhort for an end to the war in Afghanistan and the occupation in Iraq, for the return of their children from war, and for the recognition that the exorbitant costs of these wars rob our communities of health, education and welfare. 

Blessed are the Granny Peace Brigades whose first political action in 2005 was to enlist in the Times Square US military recruiting center in place of grandchildren deployed in Iraq. Refused entry into the recruiting office, they were arrested, tried, and acquitted. Their initiatives include working to prevent military recruiters from entering public schools and opposition to militarization on a global scale.

Blessed are the militant peacemakers of Northern Ireland, Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams who organized a peace march of 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women in April 1976 to the graves of three children killed in an IRA/British troops gun battle. The following week, Williams and Corrigan again led a march -- this time with 35,000 participants. "As far as we are concerned, every single death in the last eight years, and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted, a mother's labour spurned."

Blessed is the fearless Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma who faced down the armed military in her public and persistent witness of democracy based on unflinching non-violence. She has lived under house arrest on and off since 1989, sustaining the ideal of democracy for the Burmese people against a militarized regime. In awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, the chair of the committee spoke of our need for prophets of peace, persons who symbolize and activate, by their example, the best of what we can be.

Blessed are the unyielding Mothers of Plaza de Mayo who gathered every Thursday for three decades in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, demanding the return of their daughters and sons "disappeared" during the (1976-1983) Dirty War of the Argentine military dictatorship. The mothers' anguished love spawned among themselves a movement of social and political activists. To sustain the progressive political ideals and collective memory of their abducted children, the Mothers and Grandmothers have created an independent university, bookstore, library and cultural center; and they are dedicated to bringing former military officials to justice.

Blessed is the bravest member of the US Congress, Representative Barbara Lee, the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11, 2001 attacks. She has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and supports legislation creating a Department of Peace.

 

H. Patricia Hynes, a retired Professor of Environmental Health from Boston University School of Public Health, is on the board of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice
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