Events and Happenings 001


There were many different events in my life while I was in college or around that age that were important.  Some of them are probably more on an emotional than intellectual level.  One of these more emotional ones was going to a conference in the northeastern part of the United States of America with my mother when I was about 19 or 20.  I have very little memory of the faces of the people at the meeting but none the less, I have a very non-specific, but powerful memory of the event.  It was a meeting of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR).


This was the first item in this week's (December 30, 2007) edition of Peace History, a weekly e-mail detailing the U.S. history in peace and civil rights:   December 31, 1915.  The U.S. branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) was founded. 


FOR’s Mission Statement:

"The Fellowship of Reconciliation seeks to replace violence, war, racism and economic injustice with nonviolence, peace and justice. We are an interfaith organization committed to active nonviolence as a transforming way of life and as a means of radical change. We educate, train, build coalitions, and engage in nonviolent and compassionate actions locally, nationally, and globally."


From: :

“The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) was founded by a group of clergyman at an international conference at Lake Constance in 1914.  [Differences in dates probably time it took to draw up various documents and get signoffs from various persons. RBC’s insert] These Christian pacifists were totally opposed to nations using violence to solve international problems. Early members in the FOR in the United States included Abraham Muste, Norman Thomas, Roger Baldwin, Anna Murray, Scott Nearing and Oswald Garrison Villard.

In 1940 Abraham Muste was appointed executive secretary of the organization. In this position Muste led the campaign against United States involvement in the Second World War. Two years later Muste gave permission for James Farmer, George Houser and Bayard Rustin to establish the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), a group that was to play a leading role in the struggle for African American civil rights.”


I heard A. J. Muste speak!  I can not remember his face or what he said, but it was a powerful speech about non-violence and about war.  I was greatly impressed.  Not only that, I also heard Martin Niemoller, a powerful speaker.


"Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (January 14, 1892 – March 6, 1984) was a prominent German anti-Nazi theologian…and Lutheran pastor. He is best known as the author of the poem First they came....

Although he was a national conservative and initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler,…he became one of the founders of the Confessing Church, which opposed the nazification of German Protestant churches. Despite his own antisemitic attitudes,…he vehemently opposed the Nazis' Aryan Paragraph….For his opposition to the Nazi's state control of the churches, Niemöller was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945…. He narrowly escaped execution and survived imprisonment….After his imprisonment, he expressed his deep regret about not having done enough to help the victims of the Nazis….He turned away from his earlier antisemitic and nationalistic beliefs and was one of the initiators of the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt…. Since the 1950s, he was a vocal pacifist and anti-war activist….He met with Ho Chi Minh during the Vietnam War and was a committed campaigner for nuclear disarmament.”


The following poem is credited to him:


"First they came for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up,

because I wasn’t a Communist.


Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up,

because I wasn’t a Jew.


Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak up,

because I was a Protestant.


Then they came for me,

and by that time

there was no one left to speak up for me.”   


by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945…

The version above is taken from an article on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of WW II that appeared in TIME Magazine, Aug 28, 1989. There are many versions of this poem floating around... by no means is this the authorative one”  From:


FOR published a little monthly magazine, and I wrote a couple articles for it, but they did not like my next article and I did not want to make the changes they suggested so we broke off contact.  Later they replaced what I was writing with articles by Eric Fromm, a famous psychoanalyst.  I was most flattered.

Mother was very interested in the peace movement in general, and in FOR specifically.  She contributed money to various causes, and corresponded with several people, two of whom were closely connected with FOR.  I met the two of them at this meeting, Glenn Smiley and John Swomley.  I talked with them some while I was at the meeting, and met them again later in my life, but only for very brief periods.  I had no lasting friendship with either of them, but periodically through my life I have had reason to remember one or the other of them, particularly Glenn Smiley.

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