New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) is holding its 60th Annual Dinner on Sunday, April 2, 2017 at the Hasbrouck Heights Hilton, 650 Terrace Avenue, in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
This year’s program features noted journalist, author and activist Chris Hedges speaking about “Resisting American Fascism.”
In Hedges’ September 2015 article titled “The Real Enemy is Within” he writes, “Militarists and war profiteers are our greatest enemy. They use fear, bolstered by racism, as a tool in their efforts to abolish civil liberties, crush dissent and ultimately extinguish democracy.…War is a business….War never stops. Whole sections of the earth live in terror…The war machine is not, and almost never has been, a force for liberty or democracy. It does not make us safe. It does not make the world safe. And its immense economic and political power internally…has turned it into the most dangerous institution in America.”
NJPA will also honor First Friends of NJ and NY, an organization that works on behalf of detained immigrants and asylum seekers. Volunteers visit and write to detainees, distribute writing materials so detainees can stay in contact with their families and raise awareness about immigrant detention. In addition, they advocate for improved living conditions for all detainees and immigration reform, while assisting with resettlement for those either granted asylum or out on bond.
“What a beautiful picture greeted me when I walked into the First Friends office and there were three gentlemen sitting in the conference room,” said Leslie Neve of Jersey City, a member of the First Friends board. “They had just been granted asylum the day before. One was headed to Los Angeles, where an American he had met on his trek to the US through Central America had promised to help him if he made it to the US and got asylum. The other two were heading for rooms at the Seafarer’s International House in NYC. All the arrangements were made with the help of First Friends. During the time in detention First Friends volunteers had visited these three men – visits that made their time in detention pass a little easier and made them feel as though some one cared.”
“First Friends has received many more offers of help and interest in the organization since the new administration began,” said Lorna Henkel, resident of Secaucus and president of the First Friends Board. “The proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico will create more problems than it solves. It is similar to the travel ban – neither one will work. If people are fleeing any persecution or war they will find a way to get through. We need to make it easier, not more difficult, for people to seek haven. What has happened to our compassion and our concern for the dignity of all? It’s a moral issue and an issue of justice.”
“Donald Trump’s recent proposal to lift the sequester on the military budget and allow for increases in military spending will hit our communities and hit them hard. His proposed $54 billion increase in the military budget is the largest since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at almost 10%,” said Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of NJPA. “This country would be much better off if we took that increase plus the cost of building a $21.6 billion wall between the U.S. and Mexico and spent it instead on improving public education, creating jobs, protecting the environment, lowering the costs of health care or improving crumbling infrastructure.”
E. Betty Levin, Millburn resident and the NJPA Person of the Year, has been a peace educator for many years and a member of NJPA for most of that same time. She and the Maplewood-based Ethical Culture Society of Essex County became NJPA’s first Peace Site in 1980. She remains committed both to peace education and non-violent ways of resolving international conflict.
“The privilege of being a Peace Educator brings deep satisfaction as I activate Mahatma Gandhi’s words: ‘If we are ever to have peace in this world, we must start with the children.’ I strive for Peace as a way of being where we all become agents of change,” said Levin.
Those interested in attending the dinner can do so by making reservations at www.njpeaceaction.org or by calling 973-259-1126.
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