This year, Holy Week coincided with the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Exactly one year prior, on April 4, 1967, Dr. King delivered his Beyond Vietnam, A Time to Break Silence speech at Riverside Church in New York City. Patrick Sieber, OFM, says it is well past time for us to truly live its truth.
Patrick did his part on April 7, as he does every Good Friday, in peaceful protest at the annual Good Friday Stations of Justice, Peace, Nonviolence Resistance, and Love of Humanity at the gates of Lockheed Martin, the weapons manufacturer in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. This year’s peaceful protest and resistance, said Patrick, honored Dr. King’s 55th anniversary of his death.
The event is sponsored annually by the Brandywine Peace Community, the non-profit organization established in 1978 that is committed to nonviolent action, peacemaking, and war resistance. The organization also organizes a peaceful protest every year on Ash Wednesday.
“The protest is held at the Lockheed Martin facility because Lockheed is the world’s largest war profiteer and nuclear weapons contractor. The company is our country’s number one weapons producer – everything from drone warfare technology to nuclear weapons,” explained Patrick. “The Good Friday observance occurs annually as part of Brandywine’s ongoing campaign of nonviolent direct action at Lockheed Martin.”
Protestors have engaged in several dramatic actions – all peaceful in nature – throughout the years, from tolling a bell of peace and placing crosses between banners and signs, to reading scripture and singing songs. Protestors have often been arrested for trespassing in a show of civil disobedience when they enter the driveway of Lockheed Martin in an attempt to deliver a copy of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
In a reflection about Lent last February, Patrick wrote, “Our prayer each time is that the ashes (of Ash Wednesday) on our foreheads will remind us of the ‘Mark of Cain’ and the issue of Fratricide. A reminder to do no harm to another human being! But Lockheed’s business is in weapons of mass destruction. The horrible conclusion of their products is reducing whole villages and cities to ashes. Can a sinful corporation be redeemed? The money spent on their products has reduced many of our cities, like my ministry here in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia and in Camden, New Jersey, to ashes.”
He continued, “Billions are spent on cruise missiles and killer drones, while inner cities remain in an Ash Wednesday and Good Friday curse of suffering – with no promise of an Easter Sunday. Mainstream churches – Catholic and Protestant, for example – seem reluctant, almost afraid, to confront and criticize. Resurrection from the ashes and the cross happened once. It can happen again. But it will take a lot of work and prayers.”