Christian Peacemaker Art Gish Dies at 70

Christian Peacemaker Art Gish with flock in Hebron.

As news spreads of the tragic death of Art Gish, world-renowned Christian peacemaker, in a farming accident near Athens, Ohio, more memories and reflections are pouring in. (See yesterday’s post for more.)

“He has been an inspiration to me for more than 36 years.”–Dale in Melbourne, Australia

“Have spent hours, days with him and I have never heard a harsh personal word towards anyone only love and deep concern. Now I have heard him seriously criticize the violent policies and actions of governments and individuals supporting those governments but never personal attacks on anyone.”–Kathleen

The Athens News ran a story on Art in their later edition that gives more details on his death and life:

Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly reported that Gish was disking a field on a tractor at his Amesville area farm around 9:30 a.m., when he apparently drove too close to the sloped edge, flipped the tractor over and was trapped underneath. The vehicle caught fire, and Gish perished in the blaze, Kelly said. The Amesville Fire Department and SEOEMS responded, as well as the sheriff’s department.

The Mennonite Publishing Network, which distributes two of Gish’s books about his work in the Middle East, said he had been active in peace and social justice work for the past 50 years, beginning with his work as a conscientious objector with Brethren Volunteer Service in Europe from 1958-60.

He also worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and had been actively involved in opposing U.S. wars abroad since his youth. He had worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the Middle East since 1995.

Both Gish, 70, and his wife, Peggy, of 13206 Dutch Creek Road, have been well-known figures in Athens’ progressive community. Peggy Gish, who is currently in Iraq, also made repeated trips to the Middle East to work with Christian Peacemaker Teams there.

On a regular basis, one or both of the Gishes could be found with a few other people standing on Court Street outside the Athens County Courthouse, holding signs calling for peace, in a weekly lunch hour vigil.

He also was a regular fixture at the Athens Farmers Market, where he sold organic produce and other goods from his farm.

Over the years, Gish submitted dozens of letters to the editor to The Athens NEWS and other local newspapers on peace and justice issues, as well as religion and morality. He repeatedly placed first in the reader-nominated Athens NEWS Best of Athens awards, as “Best Leading Citizen.”

Gish gained worldwide attention in 2003, when the Associated Press distributed a photo of him defying an Israeli tank, to try to block it from destroying a Palestinian market in Hebron.

Read the whole Athens News story here. To learn more about Art, read his books:

Beyond the Rat Race
Living in Christian Community
Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking
At-Tuwani Journal: Hope and Nonviolent Action in a Palestinian Village

Video: The Young Are Dreaming Dreams

In June 2009, 19 young Israelis and Palestinians, who have been working together for three years, came together in Tel Aviv to show that music can overcome conflict by creating a unique track and this 5-minute video.

The project is a collaboration between peace organization Windows for Peace and pioneering London-based music college Point Blank Learning. This video ‘Step for Peace’ is the final result of all their hard work.

For me, it’s a contemporary expression of Joel 2:28-29: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”

“At first [working on the project] was kind of weird. We all have different stories. We all had a bit of trouble trying to understand each other. Just our traditions are different; we are living different lives. After some time, we got to know each other and be friends.” – Natalie, Palestinian from Bethlehem, 15.

“It has changed my life. Before, I thought Israeli people were bad and that they thought of us as bad. When I met the group it was a shock for me – now I’ve changed my thoughts about Israelis” – Tamara, Palestinian from Bethlehem, 15.

“It’s fantastic we are talking, because we are supposed to be enemies. I came here because I wanted to understand more the other side. It’s hard for me to talk about the hard things [Palestinians] go through. There is something in their voice that blames me and I can’t blame them for that” – Gili, Israeli from Tel Aviv, 14.

“[The song] won’t make people meet the other side, but it will change the way they think about the conflict” – Orin, Tel Aviv resident, 14.

“Some Songs Required” a poem

I wrote this strange little poem a few years ago. It wasn’t prompted by anything happening in the Middle East, but as I revisit it now, there is some element of lament that resonates with my current lament for the people in Gaza and Israel.

Some Songs Required
Psalm 137

by Rose Marie Berger

Down the river from Babylon
there was a city of Dales,

not quite like Zion. In Nutdale,
Elmdale, and Oakdale people sat

two by two in boxes neatly stacked
where they wept without knowing why.

Upriver, Babylon heard only their singing
in a special language of clicks and snaps;

not in the stringed language of the lyre,
that riffled and flowed over the feet

of the Stored Ones. True too that the Dale-dwellers
babbled in a tongue fewer and fewer of them

could understand. Instead they stared:
at each other, at the river, pointing out the little

heads of children, afloat like golden boats
on the current. While Babylon, teeth sharp

from gnawing on its platinum
bedpost at night, reached down its

right hand to touch the flag hanging
limp between its legs. A single gold tear

slipped away to tell the others.