By Evalee Mickey
IOWA CITY — Father Ed Fitzpatrick, director of the Newman Catholic Student Center, described last week’s presentation on nonviolence as “living history.” It featured peace activists Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, and former military interrogator Joshua Casteel, now a student at the University of Chicago, School of Divinity.
The two spoke April 15 during a presentation titled: Seeds of a Culture of Peace: Non-Violence as a Counter Culture. Bishop Gumbleton is founding president of Pax Christi USA and a 1979 recipient of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in the Davenport Diocese, among other awards. Casteel, a University of Iowa graduate, was a military interrogator at Abu Ghriib prison who later became a conscientious objector. While attending the Iowa Playwrights workshop he wrote “Returns,” a play about his experience as an interrogator. Casteel also has written a book “Letters from Abu Ghraib” that contains a collection of email messages he sent to friends and family.
During the presentation, Bishop Gumbleton quoted Pope John Paul II’s three compelling reasons why war should cease:
• War destroys the lives of innocent people. Modern warfare is total war: destroying a whole nation.
• War throws upheaval into the lives of those who do the killing.
• War always leaves a trail of hatred and resentment which makes it more difficult to resolve the problems that started the war. War is always a defeat for humanity.
The bishop also quoted Pope Paul VI, who said “that we should respond to violence and hatred … with the fascinating power of love, becoming artisans of peace.” And the bishop referred to writer John McKenzie, SJ, who said, “If Jesus did not reject violence for any reason whatsoever, we know nothing about Jesus.”
Casteel recounted his experience interrogating more than130 prisoners. He said he could count on one hand the number of people who were guilty of nothing more than being Arabs. The majority of them were school boys, laborers, fathers and taxi drivers; about 2 percent were considered terrorists. After conducting one of his interrogations, Casteel was compelled to look at his own spirituality and his belief in the teaching of Jesus. He said that challenge made him undergo what he described as a “crystallization of conscience,” leading him to apply for Conscientious Objector status.
He remarked that video games, such as Modern Warfare II, are preparing young people early for today’s warfare training.
Jesus taught us how to die, not to kill, words both Bishop Gumbleton and Casteel emphasized in their closing remarks.