Michigan Peace Team co-founder gains worldwide recognition

Monday 19 October 2009


Rev. C. Peter Dougherty



Lansing, Michigan; October 16, 2009: The Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation of Mumbai, India has announced that the 2009 recipient of its international award recognizing contributions to Gandhian values outside of India has been awarded to Michigan Peace Team’s Rev. C. Peter Dougherty. The prestigious award will be formally presented at a special function on Friday, November 6th in Mumbai.

The International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India was instituted by the Foundation in 1988 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jamnalal Bajaj. Jamnalal Bajaj was a devout follower of Gandhi.  He was also an industrialist, a philanthropist, and Indian independence fighter.  Gandhi adopted Bajaj as his fifth son.

“I’m honored and humbled”, said Dougherty, co-founder of Michigan Peace Team.  “This is an incredible privilege; and that it comes from such an honorable organization, with such an honorable history, means all that much more”.

This venerated award carries a citation, a beautiful trophy and a cash prize of 500,000 rupees [approximately $10,000 USD]. It is given every year to a non-Indian citizen for their contribution in promoting Gandhian values outside India by:

  • Promoting peace and harmony among people and friendliness among nations through application of Gandhian philosophy of truth and non-violence.
  • Ending exploitation in any form and seeking solution of social, cultural, economic and political problems through Gandhian principles and constructive programs.
  • Demonstrating innovative work in social organizations with a view to promoting Gandhian values of purity of means and ends by awakening moral conscience, fostering community, self-reliance and bringing about harmony of human life with nature.

Previous recipients include Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Dr. Daisaku Ikeda of Japan.

Dougherty will depart for India at the end of the month and, after receiving the award, plans to meet with Gandhian and other peace activists in Mumbai, Delhi, Wardha, Calcutta, and villages in Bengal, sharing information about peacemaking efforts in the United States and India, and doing nonviolent skills sharing (including demonstrations of the skills taught in Michigan Peace Team’s curriculum).  He will also spend time at the ashrams of Mahatma Gandhi and his disciple Vinoba Bave – – ashrams that played an integral part in the development of Gandhi’s life and mission.

Michigan Peace Team was founded in 1993 to provide training in active nonviolence, and deploys peace teams into places of conflict (both domestically and internationally) to reduce violence.  MPT convenes, supports, and participates with local peace action groups and gatherings, and mentors individuals seeking experience with international tams in places of conflict.  It also educates the public to the vision and practice of active nonviolence.

International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India

International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India

Established in 1977 in the memory of Jamnalal Bajaj, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, the Foundation strives to serve the ideals to which Jamnalal Bajaj had dedicated his life and promotes the kind of Gandhian constructive activities in which he himself was deeply involved during his life-time.

For more info, Contact: Mary L. Hanna, MPT Operations Manager

Ph: 517-484-3178; Email: michiganpeaceteam@gmail.com or maryhanna.mpt@gmail.com

Obama gets Nobel: really?

Friday 9 October 2009

As I came downstairs this morning, I was given the remote control and said I maybe wanted to check out the news: Obama getting the Nobel prize, NASA blowing up the moon, the Red Sox losing.  “Lots to catch up on,” I was told.

The NASA moon thing was weird enough, but did I hear correctly that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize?  “For what?” I asked myself.  And from watching a few minutes of CNN and then reading a few articles and facebook comments online, I wasn’t the only one asking, “Really?”  Even Obama said he wasn’t sure he’d done enough to earn the award yet.
(NY Times article and AP article)

In an answer to my “For what?“ question, the Nobel committee gives this reason: “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

“Extraordinary efforts?”  The guy has been in office less than a year.  While it’s thought the prize is meant to act as an encouragement for Obama to keep doing what he’s doing, does Mr. Obama really need encouragement?  His political career has continued to show he’s a pragmatist who likes to talk and involve everyone, and he’s not likely to do a 180 any time soon.  However, with decisions on Afghanistan still on the table, maybe this comes at a time that will compel him to think about how more troops might hinder peace (though I doubt it).

A quick reading of Wikipedia‘s entries on the Nobel Peace Prize and past Peace Prize laureates shows controversy has surrounded the award for years.  There is not only a long list of names who never received the prize, such as someone named Gandhi, but also those who, like Mr. Obama, who received the prize maybe a bit before it was due.  As I thought about the talk of Mr. Obama receiving this award somewhat prematurely, the case of 1994’s winners came immediately to my mind.  That year, the winners were Yasser Arafat of Palestine and Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, both of Israel, “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.” As I heard someone say in a news report this morning, it’s basically “an A for effort.”  Few would argue there is current peace in the Middle East, and many might say that the situation is no better (and maybe even worse) than it was before the 1994 trio got involved.

So while it may be in some ways nice of the Nobel committee to recognize “efforts” (in fact, the 2008 and 2007 winners citations use that word as well), maybe just a little in the area of results would have been nice.  There were over 200 nominated this year alone: was this really the best choice?  And there have been past years where no award was given: should this have been one of those years as well?

But as they say, “We’ll let history be the judge of that.”

Update: The critiques just keep on coming.  “Most Valuable President”

Easter (I know that my Redeemer lives!)

Sunday 12 April 2009

To be truthful, most days — maybe all days, actually — I go around thinking about and picturing Jesus as a pretty great guy. After all, he did a lot of great things and spoke some amazing words that resound very deeply within me. Jesus was the man who proclaimed forgiveness to the sinner and hope for the hopeless. He commanded us to give up all our earthly things and trust fully in God. Jesus said to be weak is to truly be strong, and to be poor is what allows us to actually be rich.

Jesus’ brand of justice was different than the way we think about it today: it was a justice where we all get what we need; it wasn’t about people getting “what’s coming to them,” or “what they deserve.” Christ preached reconciliation and redemption, not retribution and retaliation. Jesus gave the greatest commandment as such to love all as if they were no different than us. True love is grace — unconditional and without requirement or reservation.

But that view of Jesus falls short, because if that’s all that makes Jesus special, he’s hardly any better than others we might look up to, like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., or maybe even someone you know living today. Looking at Jesus as “a pretty great guy” misses the point of what makes Jesus stand out in the first place: Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again, conquering death and the grave so all might live eternally.

Today, venturing to Easter services, hearing hymns of praise and the story of followers finding the empty tomb of Christ, was a good reminder to me of what sets Jesus apart, and why He is truly worthy of praise, honor, and adoration. It’s a fact of Christ I need to remember on a more regular basis — something I’ll have to work on.  For me, it’s surely the “great guy” stuff that draws me to Jesus, but what sets Him apart — and why I choose to follow — is what I, and millions around the world, celebrated today: I know that my Redeemer lives!

“I Know that My Redeemer Lives!” by: Samuel Medley (alt. for hymn)

I know that my Redeemer lives!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my everliving head!

He lives triumphant from the grave;
He lives eternally to save;
He lives exalted, throned above;
He lives to rule his Church in love.

He lives to grant me rich supply;
He lives to guide me with his eye;
He lives to comfort me when faint;
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears;
He lives to wipe away my tears;
He lives to calm my troubled heart;
He lives all blessing to impart.

He lives to bless me with his love;
He lives to plead for me above;
He lives my hungry soul to feed;
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly friend;
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King!

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same;
What joy this blest assurance gives;
I know that my Redeemer lives!

my protest

Wednesday 19 March 2008

As we mark today the 5th anniversary of the start of the current US war in/occupation of Iraq, (hopefully) a million or more will take to the streets around the country and the world as a protest to this war many call a quagmire. I’m all for taking it to the streets, and I think it’s a very valuable and necessary thing to do, but right now I wanted to take a portion of my lunch break to offer up my protest.

Did you hear of the “Winter Soldier” event held this past weekend? It brought together Iraq War veterans to speak about their experiences. The stories I listened to were heartbreaking, and I know the brought tears to many eyes. This story by Jon Michael Turner was perhaps the worst for me:

“On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed killed. This man was innocent. I don’t know his name. I called him ‘the fat man.’ He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn’t kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend, who I was on post with, and I said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen.’ So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family. It took seven people to carry his body away. We were all congratulated after we had our first kills, and that happened to have been mine. My company commander personally congratulated me, as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq.” (More of his stories can be found here.)

Democracy Now! has been covering this story all this week (including Tuesday and Today), but as DN noted “Although Winter Soldier was held just outside the nation’s capital, it was almost entirely ignored by the American corporate media. A search on the Lexis database found that no major television network or cable news network even mentioned Winter Soldier over the weekend, neither did the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times or most other major newspapers in the country. The editors of the Washington Post chose to cover Winter Soldier but placed the article in the local section.” If we ever come to prosecute for war crimes in relation to this war, will we hold these sources as accomplices? And as John Michael Turner said, “… any time we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the books.”

And while we’re talking about the media, what about Lynndie England chastising the media for their role in uncovering the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? In her words: “If the media hadn’t exposed the pictures to that extent then thousands of lives would have been saved.” There was definitely retaliation by insurgents after the photos were revealed, but does that mean they should have been hidden instead? That’s almost like blaming the fire department for the water damage they left in your house as they attempted to put out the fire instead of looking at the arsonist who actually set the blaze. Why do we so easily fail to look at the root causes of situations and instead blame intermediaries (i.e. we blame the homeless war veteran instead of the one who sent her or him to war in the first place)?

We must open our eyes to the world around us. We must examine the motives of all people — those we despise and those we hold dear. We must work to put people in leadership positions who will truly work for the betterment of ALL people, not just “the rich,” and not even just Americans. As H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama said, we are to contribute to others’ happiness, and he gives no distinction to nationality or other barriers. If we want a revolution — as another great peacemaker said — “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” (Ghandi) Let’s actually be that change.