Mar 172012
 

 

Larry Colburn, Recipent of the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award and Co-Chair of the Larry Co

Larry Colburn is the recipent of The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award and Co-Chair of the STONEWALK, the 1999 pilgrimage of the memorial stone for Unknown Civilians Killed in War to Arlington National Cemetery.  Stonewalk was sponsored by The Life Experience School and The Peace Abbey.

So, an American soldier has apparently lost whatever sanity, or at least humanity, he once possessed, and murdered numerous civilians in Afghanistan. His name has not been released to the public — yet. He is alleged to have shot to death at close range at least 16 people, including children sleeping in their beds, and may have burned some of the bodies as well — a nightmarish act of wanton brutality.

How could this happen? It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to since March 16, 1968 – 44 years ago this week – the date of the My Lai massacre. Since 2006, I have been the lone survivor of the three men on the helicopter, commanded by Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr. — who later in life became my good friend — that intervened to help stop that massacre.

Today, President Obama stated that this latest atrocity by an American soldier is ” not comparable” to what happened in My Lai.

He is correct. It is not comparable.

But there is a good reason to bring up My Lai right now, regardless of the differences. And the differences are great: in body count, in the number of perpetrators, and in the coordinated execution of mass murder by senior commanders. All of those things set My Lai apart from what is being called the “Panjwai Shooting Spree”.

Whatever names we give to these atrocities, they are stark reminders to a weary public of what war does to people — both the victims and the perpetrators.

War destroys people, not just physically, but mental. Whatever facts may emerge about the man who killed those civilians last Sunday, I am confident that it was his experience of war that transformed him into something he never, ever wanted to become. (This was reportedly his fourth tour of duty – after three in Iraq.)

This in no way excuses his acts, for which he will undoubtedly be prosecuted. And no matter what the outcome of that prosecution — whether his punishment is deemed too merciful or too severe by the many who will presume to opine on that subject — he will never rest easy for the rest of his life. His acts will haunt him to his dying day, just as they will haunt the families of his victims, who of course deserve compassion, and whatever measure of “justice” can be served by his prosecution.

Americans can debate the pros and cons of our mission in Afghanistan, begun more than a decade ago in hot pursuit of the terrorist – and the regime protecting him — who inflicted the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor. And while my heart goes out to those who will surely be victims of the Taliban when America withdraws, I have my doubts about whether keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan even one more day is actually helping any of those we claim to be trying to help, as this tragic mass murder brings into high relief. Having served in combat in a war that was aptly described by the phrase, “we had to destroy the village in order to save it,” the parallels are growing ever more clear.

But while the generals and the pundits and the politicians weigh in, about “strategic objectives” and “protecting American interests” and all the usual justifications for the organized, planned murder of fellow human beings, I plead with you as my fellow Americans never to forget what war really is. Every military organization on earth trains young people, in the bloom of youth when they should be filled with hope and idealism and the joy of living, to dehumanize other human beings — to demonize them — so that the psychological ground is cultivated for them to do things they would only otherwise do if they were under mortal attack — that is to say to kill people.

And as long as we can rationalize that the people being killed “deserve it” — because they are “the enemy”– we have opened Pandora’s box, which as we know is damned hard to close once the lid is lifted.
While the “shooting spree of Panjwai” may not equal the horrors of My Lai in scale, it is a slap-in-the-face reminder of the hellish, irrevocable destruction that war wreaks upon both soldiers and civilians. It should force Americans to ask their leaders: what exactly we are trying to accomplish by continuing the longest war in American history?


 Posted by at 8:21 am
Nov 092011
 

Remarks by Dot Walsh at the presentation ceremony in South Africa

October 6, 2011

It is an honor to be here tonight to present the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award to Nelson Mandela.

I would like to thank Karen Beransche and all who helped make the global summit possible.  In the United States the Department of Peace was first presented to Congress by US Representative Dennis Kucinich.  Although it has never been adopted  there have been many people who are still working to promote this concept. We have a dept. of war why not a dept. of peace?  Representative Dennis Kucinich was the most recent recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award.

Andrea Le Blanc from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the international organization, Network for Peace is with me tonight to present the award.

Shaun Johnson, the executive director of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation will be accepting the award on behalf of Nelson Mandela.

I would like to begin my words with a quote from Robert Kennedy who came to S. Africa during a difficult and turbulent time.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy builds a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The man we are honoring tonight,  Nelson Mandela is such a man. 

Many times I have asked myself who is this man who so loved his people and his country that he took on their struggle despite the consequences to himself, risking his life and his personal freedom for 27 years?

He has been described as a man full of vitality and optimism.  A man who dedicated his life to the principles of peace, social justice, harmony and equality, and a man who was prepared to die for his beliefs.

He has been called heroic and complex.

His friends called him a simple man, someone who was down to earth with warm human characteristics even finding time to play tennis and chess with tireless energy.

A man who kept his personal life private though he became the most public person in the world.

Educated as a lawyer he spent many years fighting for people who were suffering and punished under the unjust laws of apartheid in a segregated society.  Their suffering was his suffering.

Perhaps it was these years that prepared him for the road ahead.

His inner strength and strong will helped him to stay the course and not give in after he was arrested in 1964 charged with treason and given a life sentence.  And when faced with the brutality of prison life, being treated as less than human, he used his time to build self discipline.  He understood that the power over his own life making choices of how he would act and react was greater than the abusive and oppressive power of the authorities over him.

His intolerance of injustice, knowing it was wrong, and his own suffering strengthened his commitment and compassion for the suffering of his people.

He is a leader with integrity, a leader who inspired not only people in his own country and people throughout the world.  There was a world wide outcry from countries who supported his position using sanctions against the government and public events to raise the consciousness about apartheid  and the conditions in S. Africa.

In his negotiations with the  government in1989 when presenting his peace plans he did not waver or back down. And on February 11th, 1990 he walked through the gates of the prison and in the moment became the most public man in the world.

After his election as president in 1994, He called for democracy, reconciliation and equality for all.  As a leader he understood that moral courage and the ability to inspire others while willing to serve them humbly, is more important than serving yourself.

I remember after his release when he visited the United States and appeared at the Hatch Shell in Boston, he was so moved by the people and the music that he danced right into the hearts of people there and everywhere.

This is the man that the scholars in the Mandela Rhodes Foundation are called to follow for these are the characteristics defined in the application process itself.

He is the embodiment of the Ubuntu philosophy for as each one of us knows we are all connected in one human family and our humanity depends on the humanity of each person.

And now I would like to speak directly to Nelson Mandela.  The young S. African man we met in the airport told me to call him Tata Madiba.

And so,  Tata Madiba  you were my beacon of hope and inspiration for the twenty years of my service in prison work as a chaplain.  These men in the maximum security section  I call my brothers, had committed a crime, and were mostly uneducated, victims of violence themselves and unaware that perhaps their lives could change.  They had to discover their own power to make that change and you were our role model.  We learned about you,  your journey and what you valued.

Some of these men are now living in our community serving the young people who are at risk and desperately need inspiration and a message of hope.  For all who have loved and followed your principles over the years I say thank you.

…………..

The struggle is not over…just as Mandela said on the day he was released ”Today fills my heart with joy and sadness to learn you are still suffering.”

He recognized the injustice and violence of poverty and as the stability of the world economy challenges those who have and those who have-not, we are called to remember Mandela’s words “your freedom and mine cannot be separated”

In closing, I would like to ask Tammy Lee, 11 years old in the 5th grade of the Bellevue school to join me in reciting The Special Peace Corps Creed.

Dot..When I am hungry

Tammy..Send me someone to feed

Dot,,When I am thirsty

Tammy..Send me someone who needs a drink

Dot..When I am cold

Tammy.  Send me someone to warm

Dot..When I am sad

Tammy..Send me someone to cheer

Dot..When I need understanding

Tammy..Send me someone who needs mine

Dot..When I need to be looked after

Tammy..Send me someone to care for

Dot.And when I think only of myself

Tammy.,Draw my thoughts to another.

Let us all stand and face the cameras and send a blessing to Mandiba, the blessing that the children at the LES give as they end their day. Please raise your hands with the sign of love and I will say the blessing.

(sign)  Angels hover near and far in what we do and where we are,  pace bene, peace and good.  We love you Madiba!

And now for the statue to be presented to Shaun Johnson.  The award reads.. Nelson Mandela for your courage, commitment and love for your country and its people  by sacrificing your own freedom for twenty seven years to bring freedom to all.

 Posted by at 3:02 pm
Sep 152011
 

By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff

photo of Frank Robinson with his Courage of Conscience Award by Julia Spitz

When a young man followed his college crush from Kentucky to Maine in the summer of 1948, the romance fizzled, but a new love blossomed into something that would change thousands of lives.

He fell in love with the kids at the Pine Tree Camp for Crippled Children, said Frank “Rob” Robinson, who founded Camp Arrowhead in Natick in 1958, and, in 1970, Ashland’s Camp Warren, which became Camp Echo in Goshen and was later incorporated into the 4H Camp Howe.

The Framingham resident’s visionary approach to pairing student volunteers with disabled campers recently put him in the company of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a recipient of the Sherborn Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award.

Lewis Randa, the Peace Abbey’s executive director, “called me about a week before” the award was bestowed last month. “I thought he was kidding. It was overwhelming when he said, ‘We’re going to give it to you.’ ”

The honor is well deserved, say those who know the 83-year-old Robinson.

“His hands are bigger than anything I’ve ever seen” in his ability to reach out to others, said Mike Rourke, who, like Robinson, served as the Natick Recreation Department’s director. “And his heart is bigger than his hands.”

“He’s so worthy, even in the elite company of that award,” said Jim Argir, the Natick native Robinson asked to supervise the Neetega Club for teens more than 50 years ago.

His experience at the Easter Seals camp in Maine was a life-changing experience, said Robinson. The campers “taught me so much,” and the lessons led him to Springfield College for a graduate degree in recreation, and from there, to Natick, with his wife, Pat, whom he met at the Maine camp.

In Natick, “I thought everybody should be exposed to (lessons) the handicapped kids teach you,” and he asked Joe Sheridan, commander of the Amputee Veterans post, if he could use the Lake Cochituate camp when the vets weren’t there.

With Neetega members as volunteers, it became an immediate success, said Robinson. “The people who followed me helped it grow and expand.”

While Natick quickly became Robinson’s adopted hometown, Pat’s sudden death led to changes in 1964. He moved to Winthrop, where his mother-in-law helped care for his young daughters, Nancy and Lynne, and he took over the leadership of the Easter Seals Society in Boston.

When he left Natick, about 1,500 people turned out for the going-away party at the Monticello in Framingham, Argir said.

Singer Connie Francis performed at the party. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” Robinson recalled.

In 1966, he joined the faculty at Northeastern University, where he taught recreation therapy, wrote three books, acquired the nickname “Coach,” and nurtured a new group of volunteers for campers at the Ashland facility owned by Northeastern.

Kids on stretchers would come, but no matter how disabled the camper, the college students found a way to foster a fun experience.

“I still hear from some of them today,” he said of volunteers and campers.

When Northeastern shifted its vision for the Ashland site in 1980, Robinson, campers’ parents and volunteers came up with a plan for a place in Goshen formerly used by the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. “We had kids in wheelchairs living in tents,” but somehow it all worked.

So did the introduction the Camp Echo nurse made in 1981, when she suggested he should meet a friend of hers who was a former nun working in hospice care.

“Everybody thought we would be a great couple because we were both crazy,” said Elinor Robinson. “I was working with the dying and he was working with the disabled.”

They married in 1982 and moved to Framingham, although “Rob” can often be found in the stands rooting for Natick during football season.

“He’s a magnet – a kid magnet, a people magnet,” Linda Frank said of her neighbor who, after retiring, became a Big Brother to two young men and sang bass with the New Sound Assembly Chorus.

“The single most important thing is his contribution to humanity,” said Rourke.

 Posted by at 8:34 pm
Sep 062011
 

Remember to Remember September 11 is a recorded reading of the names of the victims of the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001, by actress Betsy Palmer, actor Jerry Orbach, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at The Pentagon, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANY&NJ) Public Affairs Officer Alan Hicks, and volunteers at the New York Unit of the Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (NY-RFB&D) organization.

The reading of the 2,976 names takes approximately 3 hours.

Ms. Palmer read the names of the victims of Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 77, and Flight 93. The volunteers at NY-RFB&D recorded the names of the victims at the World Trade Centers and the FDNY Firemen. Mr. Hicks recorded the names of the Officers from PANY&NJ. Mr. Orbach read the names of the NYPD Police Officers. Adm. Mullen read the names of The Pentagon victims.

The recordings were organized by Artist/Poet James Pelletier in collaboration with the NY-RFB&D, and The Pentagon. Production Director Todd Palumbo oversaw the recordings read by Ms. Palmer, Mr. Orbach, Mr. Hicks, and the volunteers at NY-RFB&D in their studios. Adm. Mullen recorded the names at The Pentagon. The United Nations Translation and Editorial Division offered their help with the pronunciation of people’s names.

Remember to Remember September 11 is an all volunteer effort and it was created by its participants.

 Posted by at 4:34 pm
May 092011
 

Andrea LeBlanc is a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn their grief into action for peace to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism.  

In 2004, Andrea was one of the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows members who participated in the Peace Abbey’s Stonewalk from Boston to New York. Andrea also joined the Japanese to stage Stonewalk Japan to observe the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2005. And in 2007 she and The Peace Abbey’s Dot Walsh joined Stonewalk Korea.

Here is an interview Andrea gave to Yes! magazine about her reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The title says it all: “I’m Looking for Justice, Not Vengeance: A 9/11 widow on working for peace when the world expects you to want revenge.”

 Posted by at 9:01 pm
Apr 302011
 
Sherborn —
“Great News! With a single donation from the family of a former student, over 1/3 of the schoolhouse mortgage was paid off, leaving just $38,000 owed to the bank. They gave $1,000 for each year of their daughter’s life in appreciation and love. Pass the word as we move forward to retire the Schoolhouse debt.”
 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Apr 072011
 

By Kendall Hatch/Daily News staff

SHERBORN – Donations are trickling in for the Peace Abbey a few days after word spread that the abbey and its parent organization, the Life Experience School, face foreclosure at the end of next month.

Lewis Randa, founder and director of the Abbey and school, said he’s been getting calls of support from across the country since a story in the Daily News on Tuesday was picked up by the Associated Press.

Yesterday morning, after hearing of the organization’s financial woes a Framingham woman, Catz LeBlanc, dropped off a check to purchase 10 shares for $10,000, Randa said.

“As far as I’m concerned, if there are Seven Wonders of the World, the eighth is the Peace Abbey, she said yesterday. “It’s amazing what they do there.”

In an open letter last month to shareholders, Randa said that the organization needs to come up with the $366,000 it owes Middlesex Savings Bank by the end of next month or face foreclosure.

Randa said earlier this week that the Abbey and the school are not looking directly to shareholders to make donations, but rather asking them to pass the word along to board members of institutions, foundations, family trusts or other wealthy individuals who may be able to make a sizable donation.

If the Abbey and school cannot secure the $366,000 – $63,000 for the school mortgage and $303,000 for the line of credit, the program will have to sell one of the buildings on the property – the conference center.

Founded in 1998, the Peace Abbey aims to promote social justice and non-violence. Weddings, services and training sessions in non-violence and civil disobedience are held in the conference center. Distinguished visitors to the abbey have included Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Muhammad Ali and Daniel Berrigan.

The school and Abbey have had financial problems before. In 2007, the organization was facing foreclosure but raised upward of $300,000 through donations and no-interest loans to fend it off.

Randa said the financial problems continued after the cash infusion in 2007, mainly because of the failing economy.

“We lost a substantial amount of money,” he said in an interview Tuesday. The number of donations coming in stayed relatively static, but the size of donations has dwindled over the last few years.

Additionally, state assistance to human services has been cut, Randa said. He said the school received about $60,000 less in funding from the state Department of Developmental Services in fiscal 2011 than in 2010.

A 2009 audit of the Life Experience School conducted by Pavento, Ratcliffe, Renzi & Co. found net assets at the school had decreased by $30,439 and $86,348, at the end of fiscal years 2008 and 2009, respectively, a trend auditors attributed to the general economic decline.

At the end of fiscal 2009, the school’s liabilities exceeded assets by about $355,000. Management at the school, in turn, reduced its work force and any discretionary spending, according to the audit.

If the school and Abbey can raise the cash to pay off the mortgage and line of credit, they will no longer be financially beholden to the bank, Randa said.

To ward off financial troubles down the line, he said the school and Abbey be more aggressive in fundraising.

“In the future, we are going to be instituting a program that will cultivate the support and the interest of the community much better than we have in the past,” Randa has said. “We were pretty much assuming that that people would come through and we would be able to balance our books.”

(Kendall Hatch can be reached at 508-626-4429 or khatch@wickedlocal.com.)

 

 Posted by at 2:52 pm