MIRacles No. 10

Joel GAzis-SAx
20 Kolovoz 1992
Zagreb, Croatia
Copyright 1992 by Joel GAzis-SAx

Gandhi, I seem to recall, liked to remind his followers that we own but a piece of the truth. The way to peace was to share what we have with others. The course of my peacework these past few weeks has been to take the many little pieces of experience that I carry in my head and to share them with others.

While I was in Vojvodina, I was invited by the leaders of the Peace Camp to speak on behalf of the group at a Hiroshima Day celebration in Szeged, Hungary. To be truthful, I was a second choice for this occasion: the Japanese representative to the camp had not yet arrived. Many found my participation as a citizen of the country which had perpetrated this great outrage against the Japanese people to be ironic. I almost declined on these grounds myself.

Sitting in the bus late one night at Moranica, however, I found words coming into my head that I could not expel. I went to the leaders and told them that I had changed my mind. The next day in Szeged, I delivered the following speech:

It is nearly forty seven years since my country killed an entire city with one bomb. Since then it has been the hope of people everywhere that nuclear weapons be abolished.

I share that desire. But I have something surprising to tell you: I believe we should work less on abolishing nuclear weapons and more on abolishing conventional weapons. While I believe that we should not stop seeking a comprehensive test ban and the dismantling of the nuclear stockpiles everywhere, I feel that we have wasted a lot of energy and allowed more people to die in war than died in all of the Second World War. We have not struggled hard enough to end the development and trade in conventional weapons.

The genocide today is not instaneous as it was on that August morning. Only a few people die at a time. But today, as I speak, the city of Sarajevo is being destroyed brick by brick, man by man, woman by woman, child by child.

Since the last nuclear bomb fell on Nagasaki, not a single nuclear weapon has been used in war. Most of the war deaths of the past forty-seven years have been from bullets, bombs, high- explosives, and, occassionally, poison gas.

The killing is everywhere. In my own United States, men of violence use Israeli-made Uzi guns. In Northern Ireland, the Kalashnikov is the weapon of choice. Not so far away from here, in former Yugoslavia, jets, tanks, missiles, mortars, and other "ordinary" weapons are rippingapart the new democracies of Bosnia and Croatia.

There are men and women of many nations who are making a lot of money from this. Two hundred and fifty years ago, the American Quaker and my coreligionist John Woolman was sickened when he ate off of silver dishes in the homes of slave owners. Six weeks ago, I stood with European Quakers outside the Eurosatory arms fair and I was sicked by the gold chains which many of the arms dealers wore. Those are the chains that bind us, the chains of blind profitmaking.

As our ancestors declared that it was wrong for a man to grow rich through the sale and forced labor of other human beings, so we must declare that it is wrong for any human being to grow rich through the sale of things that are used to kill other human beings.

We cannot wait for the politicians to lead. We must say to them, this is what we want: an end to the manufacture and sale of all the artifacts of war. And we need many leaders -- every one of you if it is possible. We must raise our voices for the men, women, and children of former Yugoslavia, of Somalia, of Palestine, of Timor, and of every place where people are dying in war. We must stop allowing men and women to grow rich off of death and destruction. In this way -- and only in this way -- can we best remember and honor the lives that were lost when a city disappeared in a blinding flash of light forty-seven years ago.

14 AUGUST 1992

We come from many countries and continents, despite the sanctions, to meet the people of Yugoslavia and to seek new ways to peace. We write to all of you to express our desire for an end to all the fighting and ethnic persecutions and their results which we have witnessed.

Most of us oppose military intervention as the solution to the problems here. Though a few of us feel that there is no other way to stop the killing, the majority feel that intervention only means more killing. We are not unmoved by the tragedies of this war for we have seen Vukovar. We do not want to see Vukovars everywhere in former Yugoslavia and, for this reason, we call on you to seek other ways to peace. Moreover, we do not want the friends we have made here to die in senseless bombings and other attacks on civilians.

The people of Vojvodina and Vukovar have often turned to us and asked "what can you to to stop this war." We must reply that it is not our problem to solve. Peace must come from the peoples of former Yugoslavia. And you, as leaders of your respective nationalities and as representatives of the international community, must make it possible for the peoples of former Yugoslavia to make that peace. You must do it by allowing the people of Croatia, Bosnia, and the new Yugoslavia to talk.

We have often met people who have spoken of their sense of having lost many friends now living on the other side. In this and not in blind nationalistic stirrings we find the routes of peace. A great wall has fallen between the peoples of this region and you, as leaders, must lift it so that the people may pass and make peace with their friends.

We call upon you to seek peaceful alternatives to the war, to help Croatia and Bosnia to rebuild, to help the refugees and displaced people, and to help restore the friendly relations which the people of Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Bosnia once enjoyed, if not as one nation, then as three where truth, democracy,and the dignity of all are respected.

The killing must stop.