How to disarm a violent heart

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A conversation with John Dear on the inner life of an activist

John Dear is an American Jesuit priest and peace activist who has been arrested more than 75 times for acts of civil disobedience, protesting war, nuclear weapons and injustice. Dear turns his trials into stages for national conversations on the ethics of nuclear weapons and drone warfare. On April 9, 2009 he was arrested with 13 other anti-war activists for trespassing on the Creech Air Force base in Nevada to protest the Obama administration’s drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. At the trial in September 2010, three expert witnesses spoke for hours about civilians killed by American drones, about citizens’ duty to stop war crimes and about the necessity of breaking minor laws in obedience to a higher law. Astonishingly, the judge asked for three months to think it over. The judge ultimately found Dear and his fellow protestors guilty but gave them time served instead of jail sentences.

Dear has been influenced by the lives and teachings of other nonviolent activists: Jesus, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and also Daniel and Philip Berrigan, with whom he has worked. He has written 24 books and delivered thousands of lectures and workshops on nonviolence, disarmament and spirituality.

You can read my interview with John Dear in the Fall 2013 issue of Geez, on newsstands now.

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