Peace & Justice

Wednesday afternoon at Modesto Peace/Life Center

Wednesdays, the Peace/Life Center is usually open from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. Bring brown bag lunch. Come by for some coffee or tea or to chat or to see a film or browse through various books and magazines. Beverages will be provided.

PLC Board Elections

At the Annual meeting of the Modesto Peace Life Center held on February 24, 2007, board elections were held. Alexander Brittain was elected to the Board. Current Board members were reaffirmed: Co-chairs, John Frailing and Shelly Scribner; John Lucas, Dan Onorato, David Rockwell (on leave), Keith Werner (secretary), Jim Costello, Norma Ovrahim and Mike Lenahan.

Relax at Peace Camp!


Peace Camp, held at Camp Peaceful Pines from Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24, 2007 offers an opportunity for peace-minded families to gather in a relaxed mountain setting away from the routine and rush of daily life. Workshops, hikes, campfire, singing, talent show, nature activities, sharing in camp chores and eating delicious meals together shape our time. And we leave newly committed to continuing the work for peace and justice.

Peace activist and poet David Smith-Ferri will be our guest presenter. David was in Iraq just prior to the war and recently visited Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan.

“David Smith-Ferri’s creative intelligence focuses on insidious forces of war, forces that often cause people to shrink in fear. He appeals to our best instincts, urges us to overcome fear and dares to offer trust and friendship as the basis for creating better social structures. In this sense, his poetry is utterly useful and necessary…” (Kathy Kelly, Nobel Peace Prize nominee).

About Camp Peaceful Pines

At the 6,200 foot elevation in the Stanislaus National Forest on the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River, Camp Peaceful Pines is located about 25 miles above Pinecrest off Hwy 108. Travel time from Modesto is about 2 -1/2 hours. The camp features kitchen and bathing facilities, rustic cabins and platform tents (unheated) and a cabin for those with special needs.

Camp registration includes meals, snacks, sleeping space, insurance and leadership costs. Partial financial aid and day-rates also available. To keep costs low, campers share in meal preparation, general camp cleanup, program administration, and other work. Campers provide their own bedding. A nurse will be on duty.

The camp opens with supper on Friday, June 22nd. Campers are welcome to arrive any time after 2:00 p.m. on Friday to enjoy unscheduled free time. Camp closes following lunch and cleanup on Sunday, June 24th. No pets, firearms, or firecrackers are permitted, nor are smoking, alcohol or other drugs. Directions to the camp, camp schedule and a medical release for minor children will be mailed to participants shortly before camp.

Download an application or call Richard Harvey, 209-571-3384. Early registration, before June 3rd, entitles registrants to a $10.00 per person discount.

Peace Camp is organized by the Modesto Peace/Life Center in collaboration with Tuolumne County Citizens for Peace.

Click here for the Peace Camp registration form.

Signing up for sanity


“We’re trying to end the war in Iraq. Bring the troops home safely, stop spending money to hurt people there and spend the money here, on things that people need like clean energy and health care.”

Two weekends recently, volunteers led by Colleen Beilby gathered eight hundred signatures for peace at Stockton malls. Our petition read:

“From health care to energy to the war in Iraq, America needs bold leadership. We call on Congress to remember the people who sent them to Washington and address our concerns.”

The signatures, along with another eight hundred gathered at the auditorium on Martin Luther King day, at the downtown bus depot and on both college campuses, will be given to representatives Jerry McNerney and (primarily) Dennis Cardoza at the Peace Convergence rally March 17. (McNerney has signed on to HR 508 to withdraw the troops, Cardoza has not.)

Shopping malls are the modern equivalent of the public square, says the California Supreme Court in the Pruneyard decision, and We the People have the right to political speech there. Lieutenant Eric Ingersoll of the Stockton Police Department understands, and phoned the mall managers. Sherwood cheerfully gave us a nice table inside. Weberstown fussed and delayed, but their Ohio lawyers eventually acknowledged our constitutional rights — “outside, bring your own table, give us a hundred dollar cleanup deposit.”

Many volunteers participated; usually teams of two, but Brandy and Derrick showed up with 6 children who held up big signs and handed out flyers and Connections while adults did the petitioning. The oldest daughter chimed in, asking people to sign. One mother stopped with two daughters: “Absolutely we'll sign. My son and their brother is over there and we want him home.” The two daughters signed on to volunteer at the rally — among the two-dozen who signed up over six days.

It was Democracy on our Hind Legs, person to person, and I was thrilled. Every hour a couple dozen people would stop and sign. They humbled me, these Americans who understand — young and old, men and (maybe more) women, every ethnicity, educated and simple, prosperous and hard-scrabble working class.

One mall employee asked, “What’s your petition about?” “We want to end the war and spend the money here, on clean energy and health care.” “Health care! Give me that, I’ll sign!”

An elderly couple stopped and signed. “This war is a disgrace,” he said. “I fought in World War Two, and I’m proud of it. But we are the aggressors here.”

Two strong young men came striding by. “We’re trying to end the war in Iraq,” I said. “Yeah. A couple of big bombs, that would do it.” A little later they came the other way, and one grinned. “A couple big bombs.”

A bright-eyed slender old woman came briskly by, a mall-walker. She smiled regretfully. “No, I won’t sign.” Five minutes later she returned. “I believe in what you’re doing, but I’ve signed so many things over the years, and they keep on with the wars.”

Next day I saw her again, and said hello. “I just want you to know that I’m with you,” she smiled. “Thank you for what you’re doing.” I gave her a flyer for the Peace Convergence rally, and we parted. Maybe she’ll sign at the rally.

Two young men came up to the table. One had piercings and a wild haircut, the other looked ready for church. “We’re Delta College students,” the clean-cut one said. “So, what is this?”

We explained that we were petitioning our congressman to bring the troops home safely and invest the war money instead in things Americans need, like health care and clean energy.

“Well, I doubt that it will be effective,” he said. “But even if it were, I believe that we Americans should look beyond our own short-term advantage, and consider the good of all humanity. We have a responsibility to the people of Iraq, to hold the terrorists at bay, and to help them build schools and clinics and so forth. The human race is one.”

Well, he and D’Angeli got into it, student debater and college professor each holding his own. When it got a little hot I stepped in.

“May I recommend one book? Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People.” They wrote it down, each took a copy of Connections, smiled and were gone.

Fifteen minutes later they were back.

“You guys are so sincere,” the debater said, “so passionate and so dedicated, we want to sign your petition, even though we doubt that it will do much good.”

“This is the only reasonable thing to do!” said D’Angeli. “We don’t do anything unreasonable.”

“I disagree a little bit with my colleague,” I said. “I believe in committing acts of hope.”

They signed the petition, we shook hands. After five minutes they came sweeping by.

“We’ve changed our minds,” they called out. “We’d like to take our signatures off the petition.”

Before we could stutter, they both flashed huge grins. “No, we’re just messing with your minds!”

A young mother stopped, holding her little daughter’s hand. “Yes, absolutely, I’ll sign your petition. This war is terrible.” The little girl watched intently, her head just above the tabletop, as mother wrote name and address. Then she spoke up, with perfect clarity.

“I want to sign too. May I?”

“Of course,” said her mother.

“How old are you?” we asked.

“I’m four years old.”

An elegantly dressed middle aged woman, rings on her fingers, listened to our spiel.

“Certainly not! I’m a Republican, and I believe we are doing absolutely the right thing in Iraq. If we don’t fight them there, those people will come over here. Don’t you know they could bomb this shopping mall?”

An older couple signed the petition gladly. “The cannery workers union is supporting the rally,” I said. “Oh, we know them well, those are good people,” she said. “My husband was an executive with one of the canneries here in town.”

But so many walked by with condescending smiles. It was the cool teenage sophisticates who got to me the worst. Young ones, I kept thinking, what a world of sorrow you’re heading into, and you don’t even know.

At four o’clock on a Friday we were weary. We packed flag, table and clipboard in my truck. Suddenly there stood a short thin brown-skinned boy, maybe thirteen years old. He hesitated.

“Are you leaving? I came back.”

How could I not stay? I dug in the cab, got the petition out again.

“I was afraid, but now I want to sign,” he said. “My dad and my brother are both in the military, and I want them to come home.”

He handed back the clipboard, put out his hand and looked me in the face. “My name is Matthew.”

“I’m John,” I said. The old guy and the boy shook on it.

Important Truths: 2007 Peace Essay Contest

A Petition to Consider

The Activist Carpenter Poet Quizzes Himself

Twixt hanging doors and stopping wars there is no time for soaring,
fluttering, roaring, muttering thunderstorms and rainbows,
do-si-do swallows swirling above green grass
swooping high catching bugs as the sun sinks down,
black wings tracing particle paths in blue cloud chamber sky.

‘Cause giving birth to poetry takes time takes rhyme and season,
and pleasin’ the muse takes paying dues to quiet.
My, it goes on quite a while, just doing nothing
in particular, funicular, lenticular, auricular,
railroads up the mountain, lenses in silent senses,
ears without fear.

Oh hear dear heart the parting sobs of fathers
burying soldier sons untimely young;
hear the wails of mothers for babes cut down
by those same soldiers, songs unsung.

If you open the door on war all hell comes screaming—
so I close the door, turn the bolt, find peace for dreaming,
But well I know: no prose nor poesy, no nose in posies
can make un-so what lies and cries beyond that dreadful door.
Take rest, make poems love and music, but after a few short hours
dare I step through that door into war, arms full of flowers?

— John Morearty 2007 ©

Locals protest the Iraq War


At least 75 adults and children, possibly more, gathered on Saturday March 17, to protest the Iraq War. Sponsored by the Network of Spiritual Progressives and the Modesto Peace Life Center, their march and vigil mirrored those occurring on the same day across the nation. Stockton, Sonora, and Merced groups also held events.

A somber bell was tolled as the names of the over three thousand coalition forces killed in this unnecessary war were read. The Iraqi dead were remembered as well. Alexander Brittain captured the spirit of protest in these pictures.