In Jail, Keeping Watch

John Dear, S.J., Philip Berrigan, Lynn Fredriksson, and Bruce Friedrich are currently being held in the Chowan County Jail in Edenton, North Carolina, for their Pax Christi-Spirit of Life Plowshares action in December 1993. They were convicted in four separate court appearances in mid-April, one of which involved a jury taking just six minutes to return a guilty verdict. They are to be sentenced on July 5.

John’s hand-written article arrived in our office with a note of explanation. Apologizing first for writing in pencil (they are only allowed to write with 1 1/2-inch pencil stubs), he went on to say that the judge in their case had issued an order prohibiting them from mentioning 13 items in their trials, including the U.S. government, military, or foreign policy, war, nuclear weapons, God, religious principles, international law, and Nuremberg principles. On the other hand, John wrote, their chief jailer has become a friend, and he has ordered and is reading their books. —The Editors

Each morning here in jail, my friends and I begin our day by opening the Bible. We read a passage from Mark’s gospel and then spend hours discussing and applying it to these violent times.

The Jesus we encounter in our Bible study sessions summons us to prayer, faith, and nonviolent resistance: "Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid" (Mark 6:50). Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow me (8:34). "Everything is possible to one who has faith" (9:23). "Have faith in God" (11:22). And in Gethsemane, "Remain here and keep watch....Watch and pray" (14:34, 38).

Watch and pray! What better place to keep watch and pray in a time of war and nuclear weapons than here in this North Carolina jail? In its essence, prayer is a request for a deepening of faith. Faith in God requires nonviolent resistance to the oppressive, war-making state. Prayer, faith, and resistance are the essential ingredients of Christian discipleship.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1994
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