5.00 pm Wellington time, Saturday 6 March 2010
Proceedings are under way for the trial of the Waihopai Dome-busters – Peter Murnane, Sam Land, and Adrian Leason.
Around 100 people (50 from Wellington, 50 from other parts of Aotearoa, and a couple of ring-ins from Australia, gathered at the Katherine Mansfield Park, in front of the US Embassy, to be welcomed by local Maori leaders. The Embassy is typical of the Imperial American style, cameras, guard posts, steel bollards, high security fences and lots of reinforced concrete.
On this beautiful Wellington evening the US Ebassy looked ready for war, even in this far flung outpost.
Katherine Mansfield Park has swings, trees, lawn, shrubbery and pedestrian pathways. Today a shrine was added, created under the leadership of Adrian Leason, one of the defendents who face trial on Monday.
The shrine is a thing of beauty and power, proclaiming love, hope, and nonviolence as the future of humanity.
The welcoming ceremony was conducted in Maori language, and the only words I could understand were “America”, “Afghanistan”, “Iraq”, and “Waihopai”. It was explained to me that the welcome involved the visitors proclaiming their identity, presence and purpose, with the locals then reflecting on the river, mountain, and land before cohering with and welcoming the visitors. The speaking sure sounded powerful. Then everyone rubbed noses in a ritual circle.
I keep thinking wouldn’t it be nice if the Judge on Monday rubbed noses with everyone before he starts deliberating and hearing evidence. Maybe we’d get a better class of justice.
In the past week Wellington City Council has tried to withdraw permission for the shrine to be erected at Katherine Mansfield Park, the Anglican Diocese HAS withdrawn the offered use of church facilities for accommodation and organising, the Wellington City Library has tried to eject a Waihopai Display from its premises, and there’s been some public controversy about the dire potential problem of activists sleeping at the shrine in a public park. Nervous nellies the lot of them, but one has to wonder if these institutions might be have pressure applied by the US Embassy or the NZ government to close down public support for the ANZAC Ploughshares.
Fortunately the Catholic Church in Wellington and Palmerstone North Diocese, along with the Dominican and Marist orders have stepped up to support the ploughshares materially and spiritually with valuable assistance. In their monthly newspaper for March, there are three articles about the Waihopai Ploughshares, including a front page article setting out many parts of the support program. I’m writing this from a very nice room in Emmaus House, a Marist retreat centre close to the Wellington CBD. There are about 40 visitiors here.
I’ve also met a wonderful bunch of ecumenical social justice communards who operate 8 teams of workers and housing across Wellington. They call themselves Urban Vision, and they are very supportive of, and interested in, this trial.
If you know me, you know I’m interested in the potential of Christian groups and other faith networks to be the seed of an effective global peace movement – which develops through NVDA the power to constrain militarism wherever it occurs. Gatherings like the one this afternoon give me hope.