We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

WAT Sentencing Statement by Judith Kelly

January 12, 2012

ABOUT THINGS THAT MATTER. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Judge Fisher, thank you very much for conducting a fair and orderly trial. I personally feel honored to be here, despite family circumstances that prevented me from participating fully. Between the June 23 nonviolent direct action in the House Gallery and this trial, my mother passed, quite suddenly, on Oct. 20. I did not have the necessary energy for trial preparation, but I agreed to stay on as a silent co-defendant. I thank the original co-defendants and our attorney advisors for their patience and understanding. I believe any of the co-defendants could be standing here and would do justice to this important opportunity. [Co-defendants, please stand]

My solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners dates from August of 2005 when I signed a petition developed by Fr. Joseph Mulligan, a Jesuit priest in Managua, Nicaragua, that called for international religious leaders and people of faith to fast in support of the Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike. The prisoners were using their own bodies as their sole means of resistance. I did a liquids-only fast from August 10-20. Since then I have tried to maintain a Friday fast. There are many in the room fasting in solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners who are on hunger strike right now. [Fasters, please stand]

When the core group of 25 Catholic activists went to Cuba in December 2005, I followed their activities carefully and joined Witness Against Torture in 2006, participating in actions every year since. Despite all my best efforts –with arrests at the Supreme Court, the White House and the Capitol steps –this is the first time I have been before a court and found guilty. That I am in court at the tenth year since the creation of the Guantanamo concentration camp is important to me as I am now officially on the record for resisting this shameful stain on our country.

On June 23, 2011, I felt a real sense of urgency to participate, given the disturbing language on Guantanamo in the Defense Appropriations Bill. I felt our action would be timely, relevant and, in a sense, necessary to prevent a greater crime. I believed our statement had to be read to Congress and those with strong voices tried to do so. I chose to say something else, just once: “We walk in shame and grief and anger.” I did speak out to the many representatives, staffers and visitors on the House floor, but with all the noise in that cavernous hall, I don’t believe my voice carried very far. The jeers and boos I heard coming from the House floor drowned out the message I tried to deliver. Before being escorted out of the gallery, I also called out: Please, close Guantanamo!

I especially wanted to be part of this action in June in response to my travel with a peace delegation to Afghanistan in March with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Several of my co-defendants and friends also traveled there and we established strong bonds with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, who seek an end to the war through nonviolence.

My experience in Afghanistan motivated me to attend a series in Maryland on Christian/Muslim matters in June. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church spoke on June 20, and I raised a difficult question with him about his predecessor, Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, who had spoken at an interfaith panel I attended in Oct. 2001. I remember that I agreed with his critique of US policies in the Middle East. How had he become so radicalized that the US had him on its “target list?” Imam Johari told us that he truly believed that his friend Al-Awlaki, a US citizen of Yemeni heritage, was a moderate in 2001, but that his arrest and torture in Yemen (that he believed to be at the bidding of the US government) changed him into a radical anti-American. Anwar Al-Awlaki was on my mind when I spoke up in the House Gallery on June 23.

As we now know, Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed, with several others, in a US drone strike in Yemen in late September. The death of this US citizen and the lack of any due process must be condemned. The recent approval by Congress of the National Defense Authorization Act that permits the indefinite detention of US citizens and that keeps the remaining 171 prisoners in Guantanamo indefinitely must also be condemned.

I appreciate very much being able to speak about these, as King would say, “things that matter.” I cannot be silent. My heritage is Polish, and Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s, once said, “I just keep doing the same things, and some days they lock me up and some days they give me the Nobel Prize.” I trust that someday our persistent actions with Witness Against Torture will be recognized.

Judge Fisher, I believe that you are very fair, and perhaps even supportive of our efforts. You praised the jury for completing their civic responsibilities, and rightly so. I suggest you consider our efforts as part of our civic duty as concerned and committed US citizens. As to my case, I respectfully ask that you sentence me to time served. If you must impose a fine, I hope that I can support a worthy cause that we can agree on.

I wish you and our prosecutors well in the pursuit of justice. May we each take our piece of the truth and grow it into something we can all be proud of. I’ll close with
Corinthians II, verse 6:3-10.

We take pains to avoid giving offense to anyone, for we don’t want our ministry to be blamed. Instead, in all that we do we try to present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials, difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger. We conduct ourselves with innocence, knowledge, patience and kindness in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love, with the message of truth and the power of God, wielding the weapons of justice with both right hand and left –regardless of whether we are honored or dishonored, spoken of favorably or unfavorably. We are called impostors, yet we are truthful; we are called unknowns, yet we are famous; we are said to be dying, yet we are alive; punished, but not put to death; sorrowful, though we are always rejoicing; poor, yet we enrich many. We seem to have nothing yet we possess everything!

No comments:

Post a Comment