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Finding Our Voices for Peace

By Bekky Baker, IJPC Program Manager

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is despicable and horrifying. Full stop. As a nation, as a city, we have displayed our support for the people of Ukraine by lighting up city monuments in blue and yellow, issuing resolutions to support our sister cities in Ukraine, and holding prayer services. No country should have to face what the Ukrainians are facing today.

As violence escalates in Ukraine, peace negotiations continue to sit at standstill. From the words of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, “the law should build peace, not incite war, and history should give us examples how people can return to a peaceful life, not excuses for continuing war.” Both sides continue to fire at the other amidst negotiations and some young people are being forced into military service despite both Russian and Ukrainian civilians calling for peace.

As an organization whose mission is to promote the creation of a nonviolent society, IJPC is determined to work towards and imagine a future where violence is not resorted to as the way to end conflict or the way to instill safety. Over time, as war has changed, and as we have grappled with imperialism, military spending, climate change and other major global issues, sharing the voice for peace has grown more complicated.

Recently, IJPC sent out a notice about planning an action against Lockheed Martin, one of the largest weapon manufacturers in the world. In December of 2020, Lockheed Martin received a combined value of $4.8 billion in contracts, 90 percent of which came from the United States Government. In conjunction, President Biden has recently called for $29 billion more dollars to be added to the already ballooning military budget. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Lockheed Martin’s share prices have risen by nearly 20 percent. In addition, Lockheed Martin, arms 50 countries across the world, more than likely countries fighting each other, including countries with some of the most oppressive governments. The U.S. supports weapon manufacturers like Lockheed Martin by awarding them government contracts. 

In the midst of planning an action, we found it difficult to fit the nuances of: ‘What Putin has done is terribly wrong and we support the people of Ukraine and we want safety for them, but we also do not want to see more people die at the hands of weapons created by this U.S. company that profits from war and whose weapons will end up on the black market increasing the number of future deaths.’ onto a posterboard sign. Coupled with a lack of interest, we disbanded our participation in the campaign.

But we are not disbanding our call to critically think about war, U.S. Imperialism, and the ever expanding military budget. The moral high ground the United States has long stood upon, to bring democracy to the world, has been eroding underneath our feet for years. One only needs to look to the many U.S. supported military coups in Central and South America for proof. 

We utilize nationalism to embrace the military industrial complex and to brush aside climate change in the name of taking down oppressive regimes while quietly installing pro-Western government leaders. Martin Luther King Jr. warned during the Vietnam War that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Our military budget is already higher than what it was at the peak of the Vietnam War and the U.S. hasn’t even declared war, yet.

Even in a time of war, it is still important to remember that peace, though hopeful, is still radical. And we must continue to confront and question those in power who continue to profit off of the deaths of so many human lives. Nonviolence calls us not only to act nonviolently, but to imagine a world not predicated on the notion of scarcity. Scarcity mindsets call for us to hoard wealth and resources because we believe there is not enough for everyone. Instead, we should focus on what we have in abundance and to truly think about what is essential to a healthy, thriving life. We have to envision communities that do not measure success by how much profit it produces, but instead by how much joy, security, and regeneration it creates.