She’s a Peacemaker

March 27, 2003
She’s a Peacemaker
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
Mairead Corrigan Maguire brought her message of hope to Le Moyne College

The Third Annual Rev. Daniel Berrigan, SJ/International House Peacemaker Lecture took place at Le Moyne College in Syracuse on March 19 — the same day the newest war with Iraq began. In fact, Maguire’s presentation was barely over when the bombs began to explode. Her message, although one of “no war,” was also one of peace, spirituality and hope.

Maguire won the peace prize in 1976 after a personal incident that led to her a complete commitment to peace in Ireland. Three of her sister’s young children were hit by a car after its driver, a member of the IRA, was shot by a British soldier. Their deaths led Maguire, along with Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown, to organize peace marches and demonstrations throughout Ireland. She helped found the Community of the Peace People, an organization that promotes peace and nonviolence on local, national and international levels.

The Nobel Peace Laureate spoke to a group of about 300 people in Le Moyne’s Panasci Family Chapel. Maguire had been arrested a couple of days before in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day, along with activist Philip Berrigan’s daughter Freida, for protesting the war. She noted the irony of riding in the paddy wagon with another generation of Berrigan activists. Maguire said that she had been to Mass that day at St. Stephen’s Church where a banner read, “In Christ there is no killing — St. Patrick.” Then on a lighter note, asked “Why do you’s call it a Paddy Wagon?” Maguire was welcomed to Le Moyne by Dr. Lynne Arnault, director of Women’s Studies at the college, and introduced by Michael Pasquale, director of International House. Father Daniel Mulhauser, SJ, a former moderator for International House, gave the invocation.

Arnault reminded those gathered that someone once said, “The first casualty of war is truth.” “Casualties are now referred to as ‘collateral damage.’ We give these wars names like Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom. War by any other name is still war,” Arnault said.

In her remarks, Arnault said that when the group was planning for the lecture a year ago, who would’ve known what would be happening that day. Maguire spoke at first about how deeply inspired she was by the lives of Father Dan Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Jerry Berrigan and “this whole family.” She said, “There are prophets in our midst, but we don’t always do good by our prophets. We have to listen to more of the prophets. We have to do something, to listen and ask each other, ‘Did you hear something?’ We have to hear something different today. It gives us hope.”

She spoke about how the people of the world are still “stuck in the same old ways — militarism, war, violence.” Maguire said the people are stuck there because that is what they have been taught. “But it’s a new time and we need new ways. The old ways don’t work.” “Armies with all their advanced weapons of mass destruction are facing the Iraqi people who have nothing. In anybody’s language, it’s not fair,” Maguire said. “We know in our hearts there’s something wrong here.”

Maguire talked about Northern Ireland and the lessons learned there over the past 30 years. She said conflict boils down those with power refusing to recognize those without power and those with power not sharing their power. “You have to have equality, otherwise it is only a matter of time before the poor rise up,” Maguire said. In Ireland, she said, those who had power didn’t share and the country slipped into violence.

All those that marched for peace in Ireland did so because the violence did not work. She said violence is only a “flaw of injustice” and that societies must get to the root of the violence which is nearly always injustice. “We started looking at human rights and working for equality, calling for dialogue. That took a long time for that message to come through, but it did happen,” Maguire said. Maguire also warned the people that because of the war on terrorism, they might see their civil rights erode. “Because of this war on terrorism, America is going to lose human rights and civil rights. These will be eliminated in the name of security. Many people before you have fought for these rights and they are slowly being eroded,” Maguire said.

Along with her message of peace, politics and prayer, Maguire offered words of hope. She said that people today need to work at being more gentle with themselves and at peace with themselves. “It’s hard to be a human being. Everybody suffers; life is full of suffering. But, in a way suffering has wonderful benefits. If you let go of your suffering and break through it, you have great joy. Don’t get stuck in your suffering. If you do, it will kill your creativity and imagination,” Maguire said.

The afternoon after Maguire’s lecture, she took part in a peaceful demonstration at Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse. At noontime, she gathered with about 45 others and said that the Iraqi people are being collectively punished for the acts of their leader, a leader they did not elect. “We’ve been at war with the Iraqi children for 12 years. May God forgive us.”

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