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6/28/2012 12:40:00 PM
FONDA GATHERING
Shrine's conference aims for world peace
Learn more at www.kateripeaceconference.org, call 869-6674 or email aumandmaureen@gmail.com and jajaja1234@aol.com. Deadline for the retreat day is Aug. 10; no one is turned away for lack of funds.
BY ANGELA CAVE
STAFF WRITER

Peace activists of all faiths will meet at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda for the annual Kateri Peace Conference Aug. 17-18.

The theme for the weekend is "Crossing the Line: A Call to Revolutionary Love" - which means overcoming fear and focusing on love, coordinators said.

The word love "needs to be rehabilitated," said conference founder John Amidon. "People are cynical about the concept of love and the way we treat each other and what it actually means. We seem to be possessed with fear and militarism."

Mr. Amidon served in the U.S. Marines in the late 1960s before turning to civil resistance and peace activism. He began the peace conference in 1998 with an interfaith pilgrimage from Fonda to Albany to advocate the closing of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. The SOA, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, has been accused of training soldiers who killed innocent civilians in Latin America.

The peace conference's focus shifted with the start of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; today, it protests issues like military spending, the use of drones and hydraulic fracturing.

Attendance ranges from seven to 240 participants. This year's conference will feature a Catholic retreat on non-violence with Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Walt Chura, an essayist, teacher and lay Franciscan from the Albany Diocese, will tell the story of St. Francis of Assisi's peacemaking efforts with an Egyptian sultan during the Fifth Crusade.

Other highlights include a dramatic reading of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Declaration of Independence from the war in Vietnam" speech, reflections on activism and a panel of well-known activists like Kathy Kelly, a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. She coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare.

Maureen Baillargeon Aumand, conference co-coordinator and a peace activist, noted that "there [are] so many issues to think about in the world," but social justice is "kind of a call that we all have. We have to live in loving relationships with each other and call our governments to task."

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the 17-century Mohawk maiden who will be canonized this fall, is an inspiration for the peace cause, coordinators said.

"She found herself confronted with history," Mrs. Aumand said, describing Blessed Kateri's persecution for choosing to become a Catholic. "The lines of her life intersected with global issues."

Conference organizers envision what Mr. Amidon termed "a society less dependent on violence and guns, and more life-affirming.

"We've got to be able to do better than this," he said. "If we don't end war, war will end us."





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