Summit Observer

Pax Christi Summit Holds Peaceful Demonstration In City

Summit Observer — Thursday, May 29, 2008

By Joseph M. D'Alise
Staff Writer

SUMMIT — For the third time this year, members of Pax Christi Summit gathered in front of the Summit Post Office and passed out flyers to raise Iraq War awareness.

The first demonstration, on March 15, was held to recognize the five-year anniversary of the war.

Then, in early April, a second demonstration was conducted to inform residents of the nearly 4,000 deaths due to the war. Last week a third rally was held in recognition of Memorial Day, during which, members of Pax Christi passed out a package of wildflower seeds with every flyer to pay homage to the troops lost in Iraq, in hopes their memory will live on forever.

"This is a statewide action," said Kathy O'Leary, the chapter coordinator of Summit Pax Christi. "The seeds will be planted in remembrance of the tens of thousands of soldiers who have lost their lives or have become disabled fighting in the Iraq War; the families of service members who are struggling with the loss of a loved one; and those here who are without access to heath care, affordable housing and go hungry every night because resources are being diverted towards war and away from critical human needs."

This civil protest was in no way violent, controversial or even obvious. The goal of Pax Christi was simply to raise awareness and consciousness.

Several local organizations are involved with this effort, including the Coalition for Peace Action, Gray Panthers, the National Organization for Women, Military' Families Speak Out, NJ Labor Against the War, NJ Citizen Action and Pax Christi Summit.

These groups had six events planned around the state where they handed out packets of "Forget-Me-Not" seeds. These events were held in Trenton, Mount Holy, Wayside, Princeton, Highland Park, Westfield and Summit.

While handing out the seeds, group members talked to people about the human and financial cost of war.

It has been estimated by economist Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank and Nobel Memorial Prize winner for Economics in 2001, that the financial cost of war will exceed $3 trillion.

"We must remember the soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, but we cannot forget the sacrifices of military famiiies and how the war impacts our ability to fund our schools, our health care system and our government programs that help those most in need," said Jim Walsh, program director of NJ Citizen Action.

The crowd at the Summit Post Office was a little lighter then expected due to spurts of inclement weather throughout the day but, according to O'Learv, the group got their point across.

"When my son first told me he was going to join the Marine Reserves in 2001, I was proud of him, but I didn't trust our president's judgment as commander in chief. My son assured me that Congress would not let him do anything stupid," said Anna Berlinrut of Military Families Speak Out. "But my son and thousands of other young, naive troops were wrong. Over 43,000 medically unfit troops have been sent into combat and as many as 300,000 have returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will probably commit suicide than are killed in combat – over 1,000 veterans are attempting suicide each month."

"We're here today to remember all of our soldiers in Iraq and the families they left behind,'" O'Leary said. "We need to find a way to help them and somehow honor their memory."

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