Sad news for so many of us in the peace and human rights movement this morning to hear our friend Waratah Rose Gillespie has passed away. Fighting the good (nonviolent) fight, Waratah would often say her work and witness as a Quaker has meant that she has been "no stranger to danger." She was a political prisoner in Fiji during the first military coup in 1987, was shot at during the early '90s by soldiers seeking to stop her human rights work in Boganville, and was a human shield at the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.
Personally, Waratah was always so encouraging and supported EPYC's nonviolence education and training work long before it became well known. But that's what Waratah was like. She didn't care what other people thought; if she knew it was right, she stood with it -- come what may.
Right up until her last moments Waratah's fire was burning bright. Before her stroke, she had been speaking at an event for Pax Christi called "Bougainville and the Return of Rio Tinto," where she had been asking questions with indigenous leaders from Bougainville about how the people's voice will be heard over the sound of large mining company interests.
I want to end this with Waratah's own voice from a recent interview about her new book Running with Rebels, the "story of the first Indigenous people in the world to successfully close a mine that was destroying their environment. This is a tale of corporate greed, violence and atrocities committed behind the iron curtain of a military blockade, told by a woman lawyer who risked her life to reveal the truth." (Listen to the audio interview.)
Waratah, we will miss your fire, your sharp intellect, and your laugh. We thank God for your work and witness. Rest in the Peace you dedicated your life to.
Jarrod McKenna is seeking to live God's love in a world where business as usual is costing us the earth (at the expense of the poor). He is a co-founder of the Peace Tree Community serving with the marginalised in one of the poorest of areas in his city, heads up Together for Humanity in Western Australia (an inter-faith youth initiative working for the common good), and is the founder and creative director of Empowering Peacemakers (EPYC), for which he has received an Australian peace award in his work in empowering a generation of "eco-evangelists" and "peace prophets."