Action at Pine Gap

Jim Consedine, August 2006

Blessed are the Peacemakers (Matt 5)

Four Australian Christians are facing serious charges as a result of their non-violent prayerful protest at the Pine Gap military installation. Pine Gap is Australia’s most important contribution to the military intelligence waging the war in Iraq. Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock has consented to charges under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act of 1952, which is being invoked for the first time. After committal hearings in April in Alice Springs and a depositions hearing in October, the four – Jim Dowling, Donna Mulhearn, Adele Goldie and Brian Law – have been committed to trial in the Northern Territory Court in February 2007.

The charges arise from an action in December 2005 when a group of six people calling themselves Christians Against All Terrorism notified the then Minister of Defence, Robert Hill, of their intention to inspect the Pine Gap base for terrorist activity as they believed it was being used to provide targeting information for terrorist bombing in Iraq. After walking to the remote site for five hours, Adele Goldie and Jim Dowling entered the base and hung their banner on a security fence. It read ‘What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the earth,’ a quote from the Book of Genesis. They then climbed onto the roof of a building to take photos, before kneeling and praying for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were then arrested.

An hour later Brian Law and Donna Mulhearn, dressed in white overalls inscribed with the words ‘Citizens Inspection Team’, walked through the outer restricted area right up to the high security fence and started cutting through the wire before being stopped. Both prayed, placed a crucifix against the fence and were arrested. The final two members, Sean O’Reilly and Jessica Morrison, were arrested after protesting legally with banners outside the base. Their charges have since been dropped.

Group member Donna Mulhearn, who has twice been to Iraq as a peacemaker working among street kids and also acted as a ‘human shield’ when the U.S. first started bombing Baghdad, said ‘the government and military are obviously highly embarrassed by the ability of a small group of unarmed, untrained, unfunded Christian pacifists to so easily break their security, despite telling them we were coming. Its even more fascinating that the government chose Easter weekend to make the decision to charge us under a draconian law never used before which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison. This is the time all Christians remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We were arrested for non-violent peacemaking at the heart of the war machine. We were trying to expose the criminal role of Pine Gap in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.’

Jim Dowling, who lives in a Catholic Worker community in Queensland with his wife and six children, has been resisting Australia’s involvement in war for three decades through creative non-violence and prayer. He said that non-violent resistance was the most effective tool in speaking to a government which does not listen to Christ’s message and wants to wage war. He said that he had always been inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Phillip and Daniel Berrigan and other Catholic Workers who took the gospel of Jesus seriously when it comes to peacemaking and social justice. ‘Now Australia is at war again. It is immoral. Christians have no choice but to resist.’

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