I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones
-Albert Einstein (contemplating nuclear devastation)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Resisting Empire on Jeju Island: Homily by Gilberto Perez

Editor's Note: We previously shared one of the Homilys given by Elizabeth Murray, a member of the Pacific Northwest Peace Delegation (aka: Jeju 10) to Jeju Island. These homilys were given at the Masses at the daily vigils at the entrance gate to the naval base in construction on Jeju Island. Here is another homily by Br. Gilberto Perez. Gilberto is a monk from the Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple. Gilberto traveled to Jeju previously with Fr. Bichsel.

Gilberto bowing to the Peace Center in construction in Gangjeong Village
(photo courtesy of Mira Leslie)
"Resisting Empire on Jeju Island"

My name is Gilberto Zamora Perez. I was born on a Caribbean Island similar in beauty to Jeju Island€”and raised in the slums of the American Empire.

To my brothers and sisters of Gangjeong Village and Jeju Island: I arrived at Gangjeong eight days ago, having always lived as a stranger in the strange American Empire. I have now come home to my family of peacemakers, and to love of Lord Jesus, in Gangjeoung Village.

The American Empire is a merchant of death selling weapons of murder to divide people and nations of color, truly the policemen of the world. It is the greatest military industrial complex of power and racism.

The American Empire claims to bring peace and security to Korea, yet only 60 years ago, 3 million Koreans sacrificed their lives, and still Korea is still divided into North and South. Starting on April 3, 1948, American lead military and South Korean forces murdered some 30,000 villagers of Jeju; this still burns in my heart. Yet what kind of peace and security is it when after 36 years of Japanese occupation, another empire raises its flag of domination and murder?

The Islands of the Caribbean have become a resort destination for the rich of the world. The original Island peoples are all gone, and African slave descendants cater to the rich foreigners. Beautiful Gangjeong Village and Jeju Island may become a play land for wealthy foreigners as well. Our mothers, daughters, and children will be disrespected and treated like trash.

Just observe what has happened in the Philippines, Guam, and Japan, which between them have 45 military bases!!! Since the U.S. military occupation began in Okinawa, Japan, there have been two rapes a month by US personnel and in one case, a 13 year old was raped by three marines...and many more who will not speak of horrors for fear of bringing shame to their families. And all the while, the generals and high officials of the U.S. military have great housing on the best beaches, and play golf.

It is the same destruction the Native Americans experienced, their most beautiful lands stolen. And they brought Africans slaves over, now with four hundreds years of suffering to slave over resources for the rich.

The empire and the Korean government say the navy base will bring peace, security and employment to Jeju Island. A big lie! All governments lie, and the corporate leaders and he rich will never go to jail!

In Gangjeong village as well as the United States, many have been imprisoned as peace makers, and continue to struggle for the poor, because we are not afraid of the empire's power and injustices. Gangjeong Village will be not be a slave, or be forced into serfdom for the empire.

Yet still many peoples of the the world are blind and stupid by materialism and fear of poverty. But not on Jeju. The peace makers of Gangjeong Village know of the Lord's Kingdom. It is alive with the presence of Lord Jesus.

A story from India: There once lived a little parrot in the forest. One night, the friction of strong winds caused bamboos to ignite into a great fire. All the animals in the forest were frightened and ran in confusion with great fear. The little parrot knew that his friends were in danger. The little parrot flew to the nearest pond and soaked his feathers and flew over the great fire with a few drops.

He did this over and over again, and his feathers were burned by the heat of the fire. A heavenly god noticed the little parrot and asked, "What can you do with a few drops of water on such a great fire?" The little parrot answered "These are my sisters and brothers of the forest and I
will do it again and again in this life and the next."

The heavenly god was impressed by the little parrot's courage and helped put out the fire.

May the grace of God be with Gangjeong Village. Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homily at the gates of the Empire (Jeju Naval Base)

Editor's Note: During the daily vigils at the entrance gate to the naval base in construction on Jeju Island the people celebrate Mass. Elizabeth Murray, a member of the recent Pacific Northwest Peace Delegation to Jeju, was privileged to be invited to deliver a homily during one of these daily Masses, and we share it with you here.

With special thanks to Bishop Kang and all of the Korean priests and nuns who have demonstrated the best of the church as they translate their deep faith into action. 


My dear brothers and sisters of Gangjeong Village,

I am blessed and honored to have this opportunity to say a few words to you today. For the past week I have been inspired by the courage and conviction of your resistance in the face of a vicious Empire and military-industrial complex that respects no laws and will stop at nothing to satisfy its insatiable greed for power and resources.

Of special significance is the special role of the Catholic Church -- specifically your own Bishop Kang, Father Kim, and other Korean priests and nuns -- in confronting the construction of an illegal naval base which will serve the interests of the Empire, and not the interests of the people of South Korea or Jeju island.

These courageous men and women of faith have joined together with the people of Gangjeong village in carrying out Prayer in Action -- embodying the life that Jesus Christ lived -- who, by his example of speaking truth to power, has shown us the kind of life that we all ought to live.

Was not the life and message of Jesus Christ a direct challenge to Empire (in those days the Roman Empire) and those who collaborated with the Roman occupation? Isn't this the reason why the religious and civil authorities conspired to torture Jesus and sentence him to a painful death on the cross?

Had Jesus Christ simply gone along with and accepted the Empire and its well paid lackeys -- had he chosen to separate his vision of peace and justice from the prevailing politics of those times -- he could have easily led a comfortable life and died peacefully in his bed.

We could all easily do the same. All we would need to do is convince ourselves that Jesus did not really mean to say what he said; that he did not really mean to do what he did in challenging the authorities of the day and exposing the evils of Empire. We could all leave the entrance of this Naval Base right now, and go back to the comfort and safety of our homes and families.

But instead, we stand here together -- including a group of 10 Americans led by Father Bill Bichsel. We have traveled a great distance to be here in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in resistance -- risking arrest, injury and even possible deportation.

As Americans, we believe we have a special duty and obligation to be as one with the people of Gangjeong village in resistance to Empire. For there exists a great gap between our feelings of kindness, compassion, and caring toward your community, and the ruthless way in which American Empire is being experienced, directly and indirectly, by your village. We are here to confront the evil of Empire shoulder to shoulder with you, and to bear witness to the fact that the oppressive American Empire does not represent the will of its people.

Although many of us here profess the Catholic faith, there are also many who do not. Good people do not have to be of any particular religious denomination to stand against the violence of militarism, the destruction of capitalism, or the soullessness of materialism.

At the same time, it does seem appropriate that we Catholics and other Christians who claim to follow a courageous dissident activist (Jesus Christ) -- who was tortured to death for challenging an oppressive system -- have a special incentive to do all we can to confront evil and prevent others from being subjected to injustice and oppression.

May God grant us the peace, courage and strength to continue confronting evil in this world, and may we always love and care for one another - friend and enemy alike - as we struggle together in these troubled times. Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"We shall overcome" (reflection from Mira Leslie)

Dear Friends,

I am home and feeling overwhelmed emotionally. Gratitude, outrage, solidarity, humanity, pain, sadness, celebration, beauty, resilience, change, military and corporate power, faith, truth......

I woke last night with Gang Jeong overflowing my head and heart. Physically one circle away-- connected by spirit. What resonates loudly is the powerful ritual, of art, music, dance, faith, the struggle of indigenous people to protect heritage, life and place.

A large chunk of sacred shoreline has been taken -- a tall white fence with barbed wire separates the naval base from the village and its people. On the west sea side there is a river estuary and a rock jetty. It is a beautiful spot- heron, egrets feeding in the river, gentle fresh water flowing into the sea, Tiger island arising from the sea close by..... a group of stored kayaks-- a peace fleet. The west side of the naval base dissects the scene. There are protest flags and paintings all along the river path from the sea...and an encampment supporting the struggle.

the fence and barbed wire 
Walking north along the riverside fenceline arrive at the bridge, the main road into town. It is another site of significance, heavily decorated with antibase flags and flowers. A few hundred feet up the road from the bridge is a shrine and large permanent peace tent, one side set up for Mass, all decorated with logs carved with prayers.. The other side of the road the base fenceline is adorned with illustrations, peace poetry , flags, murals up to the new main gate.

Six days a week mats are placed on half of the main gate road at 7am with activists and sisters bowing with peaceful intentions spoken over a loudspeaker "as I hold in my heart....I make my 1st, ..30th..88th.. 100th bow. Later, at 11am a full mass with communion and rosary is celebrated both in the tent with villagers and extended along the road over a loudspeaker to preist and activists in chairs blocking the gate- stopping construction trucks. Police interrupt every 10-15 minutes to remove and contain resisters to the side for 10 minutes of truck flow...  After mass is a human chain, and 3-4 dances in the street.

From the gate walk on a path decorated with murals and flags on the fence side depicting Gureombi rock, the imprisoned activists, and lined with several greenhouses. Arrive at the communal kitchen, the residence for sisters, and several living/storage containers abutting the north side of the fence. Resume walking along the continuously protested fenceline to the road.where the fence turns south toward the sea along the road to the marina. The unfenced side of the road has a large 24 hour peace encampment and campfire blocking the proposed naval housing construction.. The last of the fields on this eastern side of the naval base were still being bulldozed and fence erected during our visit.

Standing in front of flag of imprisoned activists
The walk ends just past the marina --a large crucifix where Father Moon was pushed off the rock by police at the end of a high cement dyke facing west toward the base--an evocative shrine.

Every centimeter of land that was taken is a passionate colorful tragic place of resistance -- a cry for peace...

Mira Leslie

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jeju: Damaged Environment... Damaged Hearts (from Mira Leslie)

In less than 24 hours we will depart Gangjeong village. Jean left this morning. The goodbyes started yesterday. There is tremendous gratitude to us for coming here. In some ways I don't understand that-- hosting and feeding ten people for 10 days is a tremendous task. We have had 'special meal' almost everyday-- and the regular food at the communal kitchen is delicious -- but not too varied. Kim chee varieties, rice and soup- yum. We have been taken to tourist spots including the amazing Buddhist temple grounds and there have been several meetings with key leaders of the movement-- each imparting intense information.

The community of resistance receives support from visitors-- it helps them to have people doing 100 bows and blocking the gate during mass- Eucharistic resistance. The sister nuns are a steady presence - rotating through here from diocese throughout Korea. Foreign visitors are embraced warmly. The community is tired, but still very together (from an outsider perspective). For me, this time will be impossible to forget-- and I am sure I'll ruminate on it after leaving.

How can we to bring this back to our communities -- and honor all we have learned?

The town is decorated with natural images-- of peace. Peace Zone, dreamcatchers, sea creatures, Gureombi rock. WE learned yesterday at the stone museum and grounds "the very deep meaning of stone here'-- much of it volcanic. It is building material, fencing, tools, food prep, sinks, toys and games, water vessel, art, music....

Last night we sat at the peace center with the activists, priests, and a few townspeople. Father Bix and I described some of our peace work in the US and then they asked questions to all of us. They had 2-3 sentence bios of each of us that had been translated and printed. At one moment an activist said - everyone sees the damage done to the environment here- but no one can see the deep anger and damage in our hearts. She asked Sonya who works with trauma teams internationally for advice. You could see the reactions--- it wasn't expected- Korean people don't talk too much about their feelings.

November 19th gathering (photo courtesy of Emily Wang)
The village produces lillies for Japan, a sister told me as we walked to the gate today-- but many of the lilly greenhouses were destroyed when they started the base. There is still fishing-- but it is diminishing as the sea is being altered with destruction of the fragile soft coral reefs, damage from concrete, blasting, construction toxins/waste and later with ship pollution-- oil, fuel, human waste.

We were gifted t-shirts today by the international team. The image is of Jeju island with an open mouthed shark on one end -- the shark is in US stars and stripes with the Korean script word 'Imperialism'.

Mira Leslie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jeju: Tuesday's Tourists (from Larry Kerschner)

A group of Jeju Island supporters including a vice-Mayor from Gangjeong held a press conference today in Seoul. They asked the ROK National Assembly to cut off the funding for the base on Jeju as part of their 2015 budget negotiations. Doing our bit as tourists, we drove along the west side of Jeju to the Jeju Stone Park. Another wonderful park and museum dedicated to the geology of Jeju. This evening we met with over 40 local activists to share stories and ideas for the future of resistance on Jeju.

Larry Kerschner

Rock sculpture from the wind and water at Jeju Stone Park