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.