A military wife and a peace activist--I was both at the same time! My husband’s security clearance was threatened, yet he remained supportive. With other friends in the nuclear submarine service, we spent hours discussing the Vietnam War. They wanted peace, like we did. My husband considered, but decided against, seeking sanctuary as a conscientious objector at the Episcopal convention; he was due to be discharged soon. When he got out, he went to high schools, joined veterans’ and other peace groups, and marched. Together, we spoke to congregations; our largest and most attentive crowd was at the Navy submariners’ church. Over and over again, I discovered that military personnel were not necessarily pro-war and that they pondered the moral issues. And I observed that the public held veterans as among the most credible voices in the peace movement. These experiences convinced me to join Veterans for Peace (VFP) as an associate.
How can CCP, which began as a faith-based program, work with VFP which is not faith-based? In the beginning, CCP always used religious language, although we observed that participants often described personal experiences of religious violence and found religious references uncomfortable. Then groups of military veterans, students, and activists, who were not connected to a religious tradition, began taking the training. We experimented with spiritual language that was not tied to any religious tradition. It was immediately clear to us that many CCP participants, especially veterans, understood the need for developing inner strength and discipline. And they often focused on matters related to Spirit--how to manage anger and episodes of violence, their fears, their loves, the wounds that led to PTSD, a desire for healing, and anguish about homelessness and suicide among vets. They sought better ways to handle hostile engagements, especially with other veterans and in their own families. Many of them were exploring connections to childhood experiences of violence and abuse. One even described a daily practice--each morning he read Dr. King’s steps of nonviolence. CCP began to more intentionally adapt language and rituals to the culture of the group in training. We emphasized Spirit, personal reflection and discernment, and the need for both inner power to act nonviolently and the practices and resources that can it. CCP continues to believe that spiritual-grounding is vital for nonviolent action.
CCP training introduces two forms of active nonviolence: nonviolent resistance and constructive nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi described constructive nonviolence, which is less known in the United States. It is the work of building new relationships, practices, and institutions to create the alternative culture we desire. Such activities integrate and unify a community, reduce a sense of powerlessness and increase self-reliance. A VFP chapter in California that was very active in nonviolent resistance used the CCP training event to plan new constructive nonviolence projects: one to harvest rainwater and another to build personal, sustainable peace gardens for senior citizens. They surprised us all – even themselves!
I am honored that members of Veterans for Peace work with CCP. The VFP president, Elliott Adams, is an active supporter, a facilitator, and a member of our board of directors. Several veterans are trained CCP Facilitators. We offer training for VFP chapters and national conventions and partner in School of the Americas direct action training.