“At its core, war is impoverishment. War’s genesis and ultimate end is in the poverty of our hearts. If we can realize that the world’s liberation begins within those troubled hearts, then we may yet find peace…What good has ever come from the slaughter of the innocents?”
Three times since 2000 Kathy Kelly has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1996 she helped to found Voices in the Wilderness, a group which bears witness to the suffering which the U.S./U.N.-imposed sanctions have visited upon the people—especially the children—of Iraq.
Kelly traces her activism to her pious childhood on the South Side of Chicago. During high school she began to read about the Holocaust. “I remember thinking, that I never ever-ever-ever want to be the person who is trying to be an innocent bystander while something that awful goes on.”
After graduating from Loyola University and while still a graduate student at Chicago Theological Seminary, she volunteered at a soup kitchen run by a Catholic Worker House. This experience enabled her to relate the ideals derived from her studies to action. As a high-school English teacher as well as a committed anti-poverty worker, she enabled her students to make the same connections between theory and practice. She moved from neighborhood poverty issues to advocacy of nonviolence on a global scale. For her participation in planting corn in the soil above nuclear missile silos, a symbolic act intended to demonstrate the peaceful use of land, she was sentenced to nine months in federal prison, Ultimately, she found this a “liberating” experience because it helped her to face fear of coercion.
Kathy Kelly is no stranger to coercion. For refusing to pay federal income taxes s her teaching salary was garnisheed; for repeated visits to Iraq to distribute toys and medicine to children, she and her associates have incurred thousands of dollars in fines, along with threats of imprisonment. For trespassing at Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the activities of the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2003, she has been arrested, physically and verbally abused and sentenced to three months in federal prison. She accepts the consequences of her determination to stand with others against what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the violence of desperate men.”
Iraq Under Siege (Seven Seas Press, 2000)
War and Peace in the Gulf (Cornerstone Press, 2001)
Live from Palestine (Edited by Nancy Stohlman and Laurieann Aladin, 2003)
Other Lands Have Dreams: from Baghdad to Pekin prison (Counterpunch Press, 2005)