Category Archives: Creating peace

Book talk and signing by oral historian and author Rosalie Riegle

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Rosalie RiegleThe Oklahoma Center of Conscience is hosting a talk and book signing with oral historian/activist Rosalie Riegle, author of Crossing the Line: Nonviolent Resisters Speak Out for Peace and Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community. Ms. Riegle is in Oklahoma City to receive the Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi Award from the Oral History Association (event not associated with that organization).

The talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Thursday Oct. 10 at 7pm at Joy Mennonite Church, 504 NE 16th Street. Light refreshments will be served.

Crossing the Line (Wipf and Stock, 2013) and Doing Time (Vanderbilt UP, November, 2012) are oral histories of nonviolent resisters and their communities and the families that support them. They contain 150 interviews covering the period from WWII to the present, including renowned peace activist from Catholic Workers, Plowshares, School of the Americas Watch and others. Copies of these books will be on sale for less than they can be purchased in bookstores.

Ms. Riegle’s two previously published books include Voices from the Catholic Worker (1993), a collection of oral histories of CW communities up to the 1980s, and a compilation of interviews entitled Dorothy Day: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her (2003). Day founded the CW movement.

The evening promises to provide a good overview of the peace movement over the past few decades, and the most committed activists within it who have dedicated their lives, and in some cases their freedom, to make a positive difference in US foreign policy.

Learn more about Rosalie Riegle and her books:

48 min audio interview with Rosalie Riegle discussing her book Doing Time For Peace.

Book reviews:
Waging Nonviolence
National Catholic Reporter

So what? Why the Collateral Murder video is important

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by James M. Branum

As a long-time peace activist, I’ve grown a bit jaded. I’ve heard many excellent speakers when they’ve come through our city, but often after hearing them I’m left with a burning question — so what? Does the act of hearing the truth about an area of injustice really make a difference?

These questions were on my mind in early April when I drove to Church of the Open Arms to hear Ethan McCord speak about his wartime and post-wartime experiences.

Ethan’s presentation had three key components: (1) the showing of the Academy award nominated short documentary film Incident in New Baghdad[1] , (2) Ethan telling his story, and (3) Ethan answering questions and engaging in conversation with the audience. Seeing the film was of course compelling, but the real meat of the presentation was in Ethan just telling his own story.

For those who weren’t there, let me tell you the quick nutshell version of Ethan’s story. Like most soldiers, he thought that his military service would help make the world safer and more stable, however his actual combat experiences gradually eroded these beliefs. The most significant of these experiences came on July 12, 2007, when his unit (B. Co. 2-16) came up on the site of an American slaughter of Iraqi civilians, done by way of the big guns of an Apache helicopter.

Ethan and another soldier (a 20-year old private) were the first to reach a van that had been attacked. The private saw the carnage in the van and turned away retching. In the van was the corpse of a 43 year old father (Saleh Mutasaleh) and what appeared to be two other young victims of the American air assault, a 10 year old boy named Sajah and his 5 year old sister Doaha. A short time later though, Ethan discovered that the two children were actually alive. Ethan took the girl and later the boy and tried to get them help, but his unit refused to take the children to the Army hospital, and in fact his platoon leader told him to “stop trying to save these f—ing kids.”

Events like this do not pass away easily from a soldier’s mind. Ethan tried to get mental health afterwards, but he was denied care. He had no choice but to “soldier on” and get his tour over with. When he got home, he tried to move on with his life, but PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) wouldn’t let him make an easy transition to civilian life. Still Ethan did his best to be a good father and to move on from the past.

And then came Wikileaks and their public leak of the “Collateral Murder” video (which shows in disturbing detail what Ethan had experienced on the ground — it can be viewed online at ). Ethan at first was angry to have the past thrown back in his face, but in time  realized it was time to speak out about what he saw and experienced. And he has been speaking ever since.

After Ethan told his story, he went on to talk about the importance of truth telling itself and why Bradley Manning did the right thing in leaking evidence of war crimes to the world. He explained that of course Bradley may have had relationship and other problems, but that Bradley showed the full extent of his courage by telling the truth anyway.

The Christian scriptures say that the “truth will set you free,” but too often we run from the truth. We are afraid of its challenges and condemnations. Yet, we can only pretend it does not exist. The Collateral Murder video showed us all, in terrible black and white video, the terrible black and white truth of the American occupation of Iraq. What happened in the “Incident in new Baghdad” was just one day in a series of other terrible days. Thanks to Bradley Manning, we know the truth. The question is, what will we do with it.

It is imperative that we hold those in power responsible for this. And we must begin at the top, holding accountable not only the men who have been president during our Middle East wars of occupation, but also the entire notion of an imperial presidency. No single human being should have the power that the American president has today. For too long have we allowed the military establishment to crucify rank and file soldiers caught in bad situations, while ignoring the greater sins of those who command them.

And it is equally important that we do our best to protect those who tell the truth. The military is doing everything in its power to see that Bradley Manning serves the rest of his life in prison for the crime of telling the truth. It is our job, as people of conscience, to do everything in our to fight for his freedom. I urge you to join the Bradley Manning Support Network ( in its efforts. We also are working here in Oklahoma on Bradley’s behalf (through the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research), as we feel that we have a duty to protect one of our own (Bradley grew up in Crescent, Oklahoma).

Towards the end of Ethan’s presentation, he told us that the powers that be would love to shut him up, and of the many threats he receives for speaking out. Ethan took a risk by coming to Oklahoma.

The question for us is, will it be in vain? What will we do for the cause of truth and peace?

James M. Branum serves as the legal director of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research ( and as the Minister of Peace and Justice at Joy Mennonite Church. As an attorney he has represented hundreds of American servicemembers in seeking a discharge from their military obligations. He also defended dozens of servicemembers for the “crime” of acting in accordance with their conscience.

[1]             A trailer from the film can be viewed online at The full film will have its US broadcast premier on The Documentary Channel on May 27th at 7 pm CST.


This op-ed was first published in Oklahoma Peace Strategy News, a publication of Peace House Oklahoma City.

2011 Oklahoma City Peace Fest gives us a chance to visit with old friends and make new ones

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Tabling at 2011 Peace Fest

The annual Peace Festival, organized by the Oklahoma City Peace House, is always a great opportunity for our outreach efforts. We see lots of people we know of course, but what really thrills us each year are the new connections we make with folks who want to know what’s happening in central Oklahoma to help stop war, support resisters and foster a world of mutual cooperation. At our booth, we try to answer that question!

New monthly action meeting – 3rd Sunday of June and July

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We’re very excited about this change in our schedule: We are going to have monthly meetings for some hands-on activities that serve to help end war, promote and enhance GI Rights, counter military recruitment and engage other peace work. The meeting will be on the third Sunday of June and July at 3 pm at Joy Mennonite Church. We’ll see how that time works out and may change later to meet the schedules of participants.

Some of the things we’ll be doing, and ask you to help us with, are:

  • letter-writing
  • poster/banner making
  • literature prep (folding, stapling, and the like)
  • newsletter production
  • website posts and Facebook sharing
  • library management (books, videos)

We’ll play some of our great peace-themed DVDs, or some music. There will be refreshments, laughter, camaraderie, probably a moderate level of mayhem and undoubtedly some fun. If you have any questions or ideas for these meetings, please let us know. Please join us if you can and share this info with others.

The People’s Journey tour to stop in OKC for talk about Iraq War

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Josh Stieber, Iraq War vet, peace activistU.S. Iraq War vet and Iraqi journalist to share their experiences and mission for peace

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Center for Conscience is pleased to announce that our community will host a nationwide speaking tour on the Iraq War, named “The People’s Journey,” whose speakers come from diverse backgrounds, each having firsthand accounts of war and moving stories of how they came to actively work towards a more peaceful world.

The stop in OKC will feature two of the tour participants: Salam Talib, an Iraqi journalist and refugee, and Josh Steiber. Steiber is a former member of Bravo Company 2-16, the military unit involved in the 2007 helicopter shooting of Iraqi civilians that killed twelve people, including two Reuters employees, as seen on the military video released by WikiLeaks. Stieber has recently been speaking to international media about his former company’s role in the “collateral murder” tape and the letter of reconciliation that followed,

According to Steiber, the idea for this trek evolved from two other odysseys: a trip he completed last year called “The Contagious Love Experiment,” and the “Our Journey To Smile” – an effort by Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) to connect with other peace seekers around the world.

“We’ve been blessed,” Steiber said, “to have inspiring people from all over the world come together for this journey that will help to spark examination as to what we support as a country and who we are as fellow humans, no matter where we come from.”

The public is invited to attend and learn more about the war’s impact on civilians in Iraq and their desire for peace and prosperity, as well as ways that Americans can assist them recover from their long suffering and struggle.

The talk will take place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, June 8 and is sponsored by OCC and Mayflower UCC Church, where the event will be held in Milligan Hall. Mayflower is located at 3901 Northwest 63rd Street.  The event is free and refreshments will be served.


OCC: | 405-236-4938 ext 2

Mayflower UCC: | Map

The People’s Journey:

WikiLeaks video of the massacre in Baghdad:

Afghan Youth Peace volunteers:


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Teaching peace workshop kicks off counter-recruitment program

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We are very excited to be hosting a workshop on teaching peace in Oklahoma public schools, and with that workshop kicking off a program to provide alternatives to the pro-war messages and limited options offered to young people by recruiters in schools, malls and just about everywhere they go these days.

Here’s the text of our invitational flyer: Continue reading