Mother's Day as Anti-imperialism Day?

by John K. Stoner (May 5, 2015)

How will you celebrate national anti-imperialism day this Sunday?

Ken Sehested writes in Prayer and Politiks: "Mother’s Day is celebrated in many cultures. Although others are given credit for founding the observance, Julia Ward Howe led in establishing what some believe to be the first observance of Mother’s Day in the U.S. (2 June 1872) after witnessing the carnage of the U.S. Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War in Europe. The Mother’s Day festival, she wrote, 'should be devoted to the advocacy of peace doctrines.' ”

Sehested continues: "Howe’s concept of Mother’s Day was considerably different from today’s celebration. Her idea was to mobilize women as agents of resistance against the policies that led to injustice and war. In her Reminiscences she wrote: 'Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of human life which they alone bear and know the cost?' Realizing it would require fundamental change to end war, she later wrote: 'Let the fact of human brotherhood be taught to the babe in the cradle, let it be taught to the despot on the throne. Let it be the basis and foundation of education and legislation. . . .' ”

Will you you help others on this Mother's Day to "mobilize women as agents of resistance against the policies that lead to injustice and war?" Mother's Day could be an anti-imperialism day if we made it that. Sehested says that the last celebration of Mother's Day with Howe's peace theme was in 1912.

Consider the significance of that.

Amy Goodman, at The Hague last week for 100th anniversary celebration of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), wrote: "Among the women here were four Nobel Peace Prize winners. Shirin Ebadi was awarded the prize in 2003 for advocating for human rights for Iranian women, children and political prisoners. She was the first Muslim woman, and the first Iranian, to receive a Nobel. Nevertheless, she has lived in exile since 2009, and has only seen her husband once since then."

In her keynote address to the WILPF conference this week, Ebadi said: “Had books been thrown at people--at the Taliban--instead of bombs,” she said, “and had schools been built in Afghanistan, 3,000 schools could have been built in memory of the 3,000 people who died on 9/11—at this time, we wouldn’t have had ISIS. Let’s not forget that the roots of the ISIS rest in the Taliban."

Goodman also reported this exchange:  "I asked Shirin Ebadi if she had advice for the people of the world. She replied with a simple yet powerful prescription for peace, laying out the work for WILPF as it enters its second century: 'Treat the people of Afghanistan the same as you treat your own people. Look at Iraqi children the same as you look at your own children. Then you will see that the solution is there.' ”

This is the alternative to empire that If Not Empire, What? celebrates. In Mark's gospel (ch. 3) Jesus asks who are his mother and brothers and sisters, and then answers his own question by saying "Whoever does the will of God is my mother, and sister and brothers." In the prayer which he taught his disciples Jesus equated the kingdom/empire of God with the will of God.

That's the whole story in a nutshell.