Monday, July 30, 2007

We Remember Anthony

Last week we recieved some sad news. Our friend Anthony Cornish who lived with us for some time passsed away. Anthony was always a great joy to have around and constantly was cooking meals, cleaning up and listening to how you were going. Anthony was a keen artist and spent much time working and planting in our garden at the back of our place.

Anthony shared with us the many trouble and difficulties he'd experienced in life. He said that he went through much, yet was content to still live day to day and enjoy life's small joy's. Anthony's story was moving and his desire to do good to people and love them was inspirational given what he'd been through.

Anthony shared many meals and discussions with us - contributing to our discipleship nights with great insight. Anthony would often encourage us for our community values, the love that he felt and acceptance. Anthony spoke of the transformation that living in Doveton with us brought and how his desire once again to have faith in God.

Unfortunatly, Anthony's stay with us was only ever temporary due to a lack of rooms that we have here in Doveton. We are ever praying for people to donate houses, rooms, caravans and spaces so we can share life with more great Anthony's of this world. So Anthony headed back into the world and it was said that he died peacefully in his sleep.

We remember Anthony and the time he shared with us along this journey of life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Birds of Prey

An article written by my mate Rev. Simon Moyle ( who entered the Samuel Hill interesting 'tail' within the wider adventure we had that day!

Every morning we’d been woken by the kookaburras. If you’ve ever been camping, you’d know that birds are often the first creatures stirring in the morning, but ordinarily you’d expect peaceful twittering, not the raucous laughter of the kookaburra. But there they were, these iconic Australian birds, day after day, faithfully rousing us from our slumber with their mirthful calls.

We were camping at a caravan park in Yeppoon, almost 150 of the 300 people who had converged from around Australia to demonstrate a peaceful alternative to war. Just a few kilometres up the road, the Australian and US militaries were practicing to kill; Operation Talisman Sabre they called it, a series of live fire exercises including bombing and short range missile attacks. Projectiles cutting their destructive way through the sky, ultimately crashing to earth with explosive ferocity. Beautiful, pristine earth, thousands of years old rainforest with untold complexity of ecosystems; destroyed in a split second of human malevolence
Five of us from the peace convergence decided to oppose the war games by walking openly onto the base to request that they be stopped. In fact, we were positing an alternative; bringing a frisbee with us, we wanted to invite the soldiers to stop their war games in favour of peace games. A peaceful projectile floating gently between people, connecting them in the name of fun. We were aware, of course, that by setting foot on the base it would be likely to raise the ire of those who were conducting the exercises; soldiers, probably armed, and in aggressive mode. We wanted to be ready in ourselves for the likely aggression we would encounter. Choosing early morning as the most likely time to go undetected, we jokingly coded our entry time as, “When the kookaburras laugh.”
The whole week had been spent preparing, but it was essential that we be centred in ourselves at the moment of entry. After waking at 5:30am, we met together to pray; to respond to the Spirit’s leading, to act out of love rather than fear. Sitting in a circle, we descended into a period of silence. Connected in such a powerful way in such a powerful moment, I felt enfolded in the Spirit of Life that surrounded us. Quietly we began to sing, then hear from the Beatitudes, then a Thomas Merton quote. The formalities over, we had only to wait on the Spirit for leading.
Suddenly, inexplicably, the silence was broken by the laugh of a single solitary kookaburra. We opened our eyes, looked at each other, and joined in the laughter. No one needed to say anything; we were ready.
We walked for three hours through the bush to reach the fence; the five of us with our cameraman and documentary filmmaker Dujon. Dujon had journeyed the whole week with us, present for our planning, our meetings, our prayer times. We had grown close to each other, and as the time came for our entry, he was increasingly concerned for us and our safety. While not a Christian himself, Dujon had a keen sense of how important our faith was, and how it connected us to every living thing around us. Nonetheless, when he left us at the fence, he felt keenly aware of the risk we were taking. His return journey would be filled with questions for our welfare.
Until, as he rounded a bend in the road, he was stopped in his tracks by an eagle. Standing in the middle of the road as he approached, it turned and looked at him. With piercing eyes, it stared into him; then turning its head, it crouched, sprang into the air and flappings its powerful wings, flew into the sky. Dujon later told us that he knew at that moment that we would be ok; that this eagle had been sent to reassure him, and that it would watch over us. He continued on his return journey in that confidence.

We walked onto the main base in total confidence in the God of peace; not for one second did we feel unsafe. As we were arrested and taken outside the gates in the police car, a jet roared overhead. A bird of death disturbing the birds of life.

The following Sunday morning, out on bail, we attended Quaker meeting. Quaker meetings are usually silent affairs, waiting on the Spirit’s leading and prompting. Occasionally someone might speak, to bring a “word of ministry” for the group.

On this occasion several people spoke; but one stood out in particular. A lady who had been participating in the peace convergence all week was walking to the gates of the military base. With a group of 150 people, she had walked past a police road block and now found herself meandering slowly enough to be left behind by the group. As she walked silently down the dirt road, two emus emerged from the bush to her left. Immediately she stopped in her tracks as they stepped hesitantly out onto the road, watching her. It was, she recounted, a God moment; she spoke to them, telling them of her desire for peace for their home, for their families, for herself, and how she was working towards it. She apologised on behalf of the human race for all we had done to harm them They continued to watch her as she spoke, and as she talked that morning she recounted a sense of acknowledgment; that they heard her, and thanked her for all we were doing.

Kookaburras, eagles, and emus. All native birds, all part of the majestic ecosystem of the Shoalwater Bay wilderness, all significant messengers of God, symbols of the Spirit, present and at work. I thank God for the way we were looked after by God’s Spirit – undoubtedly present in unseen and unnoticed ways – but visible to us in these winged messengers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Written By Sarah Williams - this piece has been sent out as our media release, read Brisbane Churches, picked up by the ABC, posted on various websites, networks and blogsites. It may also appear in a Salvo Publication in the near future.

We dream of a day when the story told in the news is not about missing persons and billion dollar war ships. We dream of a day when stories that are told are of brave people who gathered for the Peace Convergence in June 2007 to protest Operation Talisman Sabre where 26,000 U.S. and Australian troops practiced for war in Shoalwater Bay, QLD. Their message was very simple but profound: “We want to live in a world of peace and not war, we do not believe in war.” The stories not told are those of the people willing to step over the line saying we do not believe in war and we will break a law if it is unjust and leads to death of our brothers and sisters, we do not accept your barbwire fences, your blank faces, your lies about sovereignty.
The stories not told are of a young man who was arrested for doing the hokey pokey;
A story of whole communities in their diversity working together and living out of a common goal of peace;
A group of seven comrades prepared to risk their lives whilst camping in pristine wilderness, which happens to be military training ground and bombing site the size of Belgium;
Another group who do what Australians love most – spending time illegally at one of the most beautiful beaches (the Great Barrier Reef) in the world;
A couple of young lovers exposing their nakedness and their humanity declaring love not war;
A group of five Christian activists who walked down Samuel Hill tarmac wanting to play peace games not war games;
Stories of thousands marching together in colour and splendour to the beat of a different drum;
Independent media who follow their hearts in living for the truth uncensored;
Stories of strong women leaders from the Darumbal people (indigenous tribe of the area), from Hawaii and Guam who tell tales of what the U.S. bases have done in their countries;
Of a photographer who continues to be persecuted for taking photographs of deformed children and victims from the effects of the Gulf War;
The forgotten people who really are heroes.
Australia needs to wake up from its comfort and lives of ‘perceived’ fear of others and start opening up our hearts to the atrocities that go on every day in this world even in our own backyard. We need to ask the question: “Does our affluence fuel our apathy?” We need to say no to that plasma screen, a new flashy car and yes to our neighbours who are dying everyday in unnecessary wars. Our governments need to start operating under true democracy where people have freedom of speech and a right to stand up for what they believe in.
Sadly, these stories will not be told because of big dollars and control. We were three of the five who were voluntarily arrested on Samuel Hill airbase on the 21st June. We walked down the tarmac with other Christian activists armed with a peace flag, a Frisbee, two letters for the U.S. and Australian Major Generals and the hope for dialogue. Before we were taken away by police we enjoyed many in depth conversations with military personnel who shared their inner feelings about the Iraq war and what they saw and were exposed to (e.g. use of depleted uranium and its effects). We got to share about our concerns for their lives and civilian’s lives and about our worry over the environmental effects that war and these games have. To our utter disbelief the hypothetical mission at the games was in regards to hypothetical “terrorists” coming to take over the country. Were we those terrorists? We were just everyday Australians armed with another message: Love at all costs! As we were driven out I saw tanks and soldiers scattered all throughout the bush that had cease-fired as the base was closed whilst we were on the grounds. That day our concerns for our friend’s safety that were still on the base went to parliament, as no one believed it was possible. To me it was worth it just to have the conversation we wouldn’t have had whilst we were kept in silence. Please don’t silence it anymore!
As all the protesters go home the local are left with the night sky blaring, the sound of bombing, their homes shaking, their health at risk and the real threat that because this base is located where it is they will be a likely target. The destruction of Shoalwater Bay will continue until the 2nd July and will go on for the next twenty years. Australia continues to spend $55 million a day on its military whilst where we live in Doveton, Victoria many social problems are unaddressed and experienced daily such as lack of affordable housing, social isolation, mental health issues, lack of education to name a few.

For more information and media images please contact:
Justice and Peace Initiatives
Sarah Williams – 0418 146 601
Simon Reeves
Krystal Spencer
For our press release (June 21st, 2007) please follow the link - News “Media Coverage for Peace Convergence” and then go to “Activists Still Inside War Games Zone, More Go In: Press Conference in Action.”

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Some Photo's...

We weren't the only people journeying North. Our travels up the east coast of Australia was shared with the Military and Navy...

Vigil at the Main Gate...

Not quite mugshots yet...

Main St in Yeppoon...the finale of the week long Peace Convergence (P for Pineapples, P for Peace!)

ARRESTED FOR PEACE - Personal Reflections of Nonviolent Direct Action – Samuel Hill 5

This reflection focuses on the action in which I was involved. The entire week was full of peaceful prayer vigils, spectacular marches, protests at gates, street dramas, public meetings, art shows, community meals, an interactive Peace Embassy in the Plaza and so on.

After years of discipleship and following the way of a radical Jesus / After so many rallies and marches in opposition to war with my social justice comrades / After months of specific preparation, awareness raising, education, non-violent training, fundraising, planning meetings, media releases and lobbying of Parliamentarians in relation to Talisman Sabre War Games – I found myself sitting in the Rockhampton Police Watchhouse, after having being arrested for living out an alternative to war – for playing a peaceful game of Frisbee on beautiful Shoalwater Bay, located on the Great Barrier Reef that has been given permission by the Australian Government to be destroyed in order to practice and prepare for killing of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world.

Civil Disobedience
It had come time to engage in civil disobedience. It had come time to break an unjust law. For a nation living in mostly apathy or in a space of ‘what can I do’, this was one of the most significant and empowering act of democracy that I have ever engaged in – let alone extremely spiritual.

Our Action
I was part of an affinity group of 5 Christians Activists. On Thursday 21st July we crossed the line and unlawfully entered Shoalwater Bay Military Base. Beginning with a 5.30am prayer meeting, we walked 2.5 hours through the rain and bush, to the rumbling sounds of war machines on the horizon and the imminent expectation of being discovered. We carried a peace flag reclaiming the land, a letter for the US and Australian Major General (see attached) a Frisbee and a belief that another world was possible.

Samuel Hill Airbase
Our destination was Samuel Hill Airbase, a key logistical centre for the biggest war games in Australia’s history. While other affinity groups aimed to stay undetected for as long as possible to stop the war games, our affinity group aimed to deliberately walk right up to the main commanders to ask them to turn around and pursue life not death, creation not destruction as the way to a peaceful future.

We never expected to even make it onto the restricted area, let alone as far as the main Airbase. However, a series of near miracles led us right to the airstrip, where we were to walk down the middle of Samuel Hill Airbase and play Frisbee with the soldiers. Walking down that airstrip will be something I will not forgot for the rest of my life. Not only were we awe-struck that we’d gotten this far, but for the first time in our lives we believed that ‘ordinary people’ like us with a simple Faith can live out our beliefs with no fear and confront the powers that seemingly shape this world in ways we do not want. I felt a deep connection with Jesus as we walked down the tarmac, knowing something inside me had changed forever as I deliberately broke the law to illustrate a higher law as Jesus had done many a time – the law of love for one another.

Frisbee on the Tarmac
There was something also deeply significant as we played a peaceful game of Frisbee in the middle of their war games. And something ironic about watching a harmless Frisbee fly through the air over the tarmac, where other flying objects, made for death and destruction fly in and out preparing to do the worst.

Dialogue with the Troops
Our interactions with the troops were a highlight. We had the privilege of spending 1.5 hours playing Frisbee, drinking coffee, eating, sharing stories and challenging one another while the QLD police made their way to arrest us. Although, amusingly we walked in on them watching Team America, which they were slightly embarrassed about. It was like a social event, as the base was shut down and all the other soldiers came over to see the commotion. The 5 of us mingled, chatting with about 30 troops. I spoke with one guy who shared his Iraqi memories with me. He spoke of the use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq and his exposure to this deadly weapon. Another soldiers read our media statements (see attached) and we asked them to consider their vocation as we expressed worry for their safety. We talked about how to bring about peace, and of the most fulfilling role they all experienced in the military – the building of infrastructure and helping people. We applauded their courage, bravery and desire to do good, but we also challenged the method of murder by which they sought peace.

The Arrest
And so, we said our farewells as the QLD police speed us away, commenting that we were having too much fun. As we departed, we watched the tanks and soldiers in combat stop their games as we were taken through the base, and the fighter jets roared overhead…and it was still raining – my socks were very very wet.

We were charged with Trespass on Commonwealth land – a very minor offence said the officers. A small sacrifice for following Jesus’ way. So small, that 40 more people of all different faiths were to do the very same thing after us with 20 or so getting charged (including one guy, for doing the hokey pokey across the line whilst being read his rights). Our trial date is 2nd August (mention) and will require us to travel back to Yeppoon QLD (If you would like to support us in any way we would be highly appreciative).

Measurable Results
Aside from the spiritual impact and a personal obedience of living out a way of peace by crossing the line – what did we achieve? A lot, and not much at the same time.

Some Sample headlines across Australia, from Yeppoon, to Doveton, from Perth to Brisbane read :

Bomb Tests Opposed
Activists Play Peace Games with Captors After Arrest
Christian Activists Infiltrate War Games
Protestors Raise Stakes in War Games

While channels such as 9,10 and SBS showed short stories.

Our action also caused the military to changes its stance of denial that 7 of our friends, including 66year-old grandmother June were camping within the base.

While, the conversation went all the way to Parliament House where Brendan Nelson was questioned about why the military were continuing the live fire while civilians were in the base.

Our actions helped inspire and give hope to the locals, who thanked us profusely for our sacrifice. Yet, they are the hero’s of this story. Long-term campaigners, who will continue to live in the area, as the bombs fall, their houses shudder and windows shatter, while they continue living in the shadow of a likely target, while the testing of new weapons continue, while nuclear warships and nuclear submarines circle their waters, while the denial of the use of depleted uranium continues, while the environment is destroyed and dangerous chemicals infiltrate their water supply and lands. While the Darumbol people’s land, their ancestors and lives continue to be destroyed. The people’s vision – that the land be returned to the Durmbol people and become a place of peace once again.

In a time where countries like Australia and the US have lifted the ante for war – Peace Convergence 2007 and our actions has lifted the ante for Peace. I urge us all to do the same. In an age of perpetual war, in an age of 30,000 nuclear weapons, its Nonviolence or Nonexistence. We can abolish war.

Copy of our Letter to the US and Australian Generals

Dear Australian and US forces participating in Operation Talisman Sabre,

We are five unarmed, nonviolent Christians who are extremely concerned about the military exercises in which you are taking part. We are here only to invite you to dialogue and exchange ideas. We would like to see these preparations for war cease, and preparations for peace begin. Thus we come here to invite you to play peace games with us, and stop the war games. We do so, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to pay the penalty”.

We have been inspired in our actions by people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day, who committed their lives to nonviolence and who bore the costs of it. On the night before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It’s nonviolence or nonexistence.” I’m sure the fragile ecosystems of Shoalwater Bay would agree; as would the estimated 655,000 Iraqis who have died in the Iraq war, and the 3,500 Coalition soldiers. And so we work towards a world with no war.

In this cause we have written letters, had street marches, and held public meetings, yet still we have had no response. And so, as the saying goes, “If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain.”

Now we place the choice before you: the way of life or the way of death; construction or destruction; nonviolence or nonexistence. We urge you to train for peace, by discovering the power of nonviolence. This is by no means an easy road as we, even today, are finding out. But this is the most important task of our lives; we dare not fail, and we invite you to join us in it.

With love,

Simon, Simon, Krystal, Carole, and Sarah.

Copy of Our Media Release For Our Nonviolent Direct Action


A second group has entered SWBTA

Pacifists Penetrate Military Perimeter at Shoalwater Bay
Five Christian pacifists have entered the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area today to raise their concerns about and stop the Talisman Sabre live military exercises taking place over the next two weeks.

Simon Reeves (26 yrs Melbourne – Social Worker), Simon Moyle (30 yrs Melbourne – Baptist Minister), Krystal Spencer (21yrs Melbourne – Student), Sarah Williams (23 yrs Melbourne – Support Worker) and Carol Powell (53yrs Brisbane – Nurse (Registered) release the following statement:

“Imagining Peace”

We plan to enter the base to disrupt these military exercise with our presence. We do so openly and honestly, without deception, and while actively seeking out military personnel with whom to dialogue.

We are five nonviolent Christian people who, like the prophet Isaiah, are working towards the day when people will beat swords into ploughshares and study war no more. As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we cannot stand by while our country plans the destruction of our brothers and sisters in other countries and the environment here at Shoalwater Bay.

We do not take these actions lightly, but with an awareness that the gravity of our actions pales in comparison to the crimes of the Australian and US militaries this week. The destruction of pristine wilderness, with unique and endangered wildlife is unacceptable, as is the increased reliance on violent methods of conflict resolution.We take these actions because all other legal attempts to stop the exercises have failed.

People are likely to say that we have no respect for the law, however, this is not so. Rather, we say, with Martin Luther King Jr. and in accordance with the principles of nonviolence, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

We believe that practicing for war only means more war. That is why we must imagine peace, embody peace, practice peace.

Another world is possible: that is why we act. (end statement)

More information about the action will be released when available.