Dancing with Speeches #19 Dan Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan S.J died this week at age 94.  A lifelong peacemaker whose witness and actions inspired a generation.  His arrest as one of the Catonsville 9 setting alight with napalm the draft files of those conscripted by the US government to go to Viet Nam in May 1968 became a rallying cry for others in the anti-war movement. His speech to the court apologizing for burning paper and not children continues to be quoted and used by peacemakers and in resistance.

We deal in death.  Killing machines once had a human face, now appear unmarked, unmanned, an invisible thread camouflaging their true source and identity – the drone still comes from a nest of evil – as evil as any of the killing machines of the past.  The silent approach is as destructive as ever, raining down fire and fear, eliminating the ‘other’. Long before the drone leaves home, the amount of money spent on the military at the expense of health and education brings its own kind of slow death to nations.

Take heart from those who resist and speak their truth to power, who find themselves burning papers instead of children, who refuse to don a uniform of the state and instead wrap themselves in love and say the war stops here.  The Christian resister tests themselves against the standard of their man on the cross, resisting the temptation to align with the power of Caesar and instead to take instruction from the little ones, defenceless, innocent.

Does your war stop with you? Does mine stop with me?  What part can I play in the peace making?  The militarisation of our economies is not getting any less as this data shows.

Top five countries by military expenditure in 2016. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[2]
List by the International Institute for Strategic Studies
World Military Balance 2016 (for 2015)
List by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
2016 Fact Sheet (for 2015)[1]
Rank Country Spending
($ Bn.)
 % of GDP Per capita ($)
World total 1,563.0 2.1 216
1 United States United States 597.5 3.3 1859
2 China China 145.8 1.2 106
3 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 81.8 12.9 2949
4 United Kingdom United Kingdom 56.2 2.0 878
5 Russia Russia 51.6 4.1 362
6 India India 47.9 1.8 35
7 France France 46.8 1.9 702
8 Japan Japan 41.4 1.0 323
9 Germany Germany 36.6 1.1 454
10 South Korea South Korea 33.4 2.4 681
11 Brazil Brazil 24.2 1.3 119
12 Australia Australia 22.7 1.8 1000
13 Italy Italy 21.5 1.1 348
14 Iraq Iraq 21.1 12.7 569
15 Israel Israel 18.5 6.2 2310
16 Canada Canada 14.0 0.9 399
17 Algeria Algeria 10.8 6.2 274
18 Spain Spain 10.7 0.9 223
19 Poland Poland 10.3 2.1 267
20 Taiwan Taiwan 10.2 1.9 438
Rest of World 260.5
Rank Country Spending
($ Bn.)
 % of GDP
World total 1,676.0 2.3
1 United States United States 596.0 3.9
2 China China[a] 215.0 1.9
3 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia[b] 87.2 13.7
4 Russia Russia[a] 66.4 5.4
5 United Kingdom United Kingdom 55.5 2.0
6 India India 51.3 2.3
7 France France 50.9 2.1
8 Japan Japan 40.9 1.0
9 Germany Germany[a] 39.4 1.2
10 South Korea South Korea 36.4 2.6
11 Brazil Brazil 24.6 1.4
12 Italy Italy 23.8 1.3
13 Australia Australia 23.6 1.9
14 United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates[a] 22.8 5.7
15 Israel Israel 16.1 5.4

Redemption is possible!  The goodness in the people like Daniel Berrigan and the movement around the world of those resisting war and building peace is overwhelming, their love is not measured in dollars or weapons, their love is priceless.  The liturgical dance of the courts and the treasury’s, the Generals and Prime Ministers at the altar of death will find its way home to peace only when Love makes a way and is embodied in resistance and solidarity with the littlest ones and lead by a child.

 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6


It takes a child to lead us and in our time we have the great example of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman who has inspired our time with her relentless call for education of girls, girls and education, two of the best antidotes to the march of militarism and rise of terrorism. May Malala live as long a life as Dan and be a beacon and inspiration too for her generation.


Dan Berrigan in the right hand corner after being sentenced 1968.

Let us be conscripted to the movement of the heart, to sign up to peace, to tell others to put down their sword, take up the pen, open a book, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty. Long live Love. And may all lovers of life and peace live as long as Dan to continue to disturb, disrupt and resist war.


RIP Daniel Berrigan SJ: Master PeaceMaker






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