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John Dear (born 1959) is an American Catholic priest, Christian pacifist, author and lecturer. He has been arrested over 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war, injustice and nuclear weapons.
John Dear was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, USA on August 13, 1959. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina in 1981. He then worked for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
In August, 1982, he entered the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, at the Jesuit novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. He spent two years doing graduate philosophy studies at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York (1984–1986), and lived and worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service in a refugee camp in El Salvador for three months in 1985. He taught at Scranton Preparatory School in Scranton, Pennsylvania from 1986-1988. He worked at the Fr. McKenna Center, a drop-in center and shelter for the homeless, in Washington, D.C. from 1988-1989. From 1989-1993, he attended the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and he received two master’s degrees in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
Dear was dismissed from the order on December 20, 2013.
During that time, he founded Bay Area Pax Christi, a region of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, and began to arrange for Mother Teresa to intervene with various governors on behalf of people scheduled to be executed on death row. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Baltimore, Maryland on June 12, 1993, and began serving as associate pastor of St. Aloysius’ Church in Washington, D.C.
Throughout these years, John Dear was arrested in scores of nonviolent civil disobedience actions against war, injustice and nuclear weapons—from the Pentagon to Livermore Laboratories in California. On December 7, 1993, he was arrested with three others at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, for hammering on an F-15 nuclear capable fighter bomber. He was jailed, tried and convicted of two felony counts, and served 8 months in North Carolina jails and nearly a year under house arrest in Washington, D.C. As part of the Plowshares disarmament movement, the defendants argued that they were fulfilling Isaiah’s mandate to “beat swords into plowshares,” and Jesus’ command to “love your enemies.”
From 1994-1996, John Dear served as executive director of the Sacred Heart Center, a community center for low-income African-American women and children, in Richmond, Virginia. In the Spring of 1997, he taught theology for one semester at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. From 1997-1998, he lived in Derry, Northern Ireland, as part of the Jesuit “tertianship” sabbatical program, and worked at a human rights center in Belfast.
From 1998-2001, he served as executive director of the US Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States, based in Nyack, NY. In 1999, he led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners on a peace mission to Iraq, and also an interfaith delegation to Palestine/Israel.
Immediately after September 11, 2001, he served as a Red Cross coordinator of chaplains at the Family Assistance Center in Manhattan, and personally counseled thousands of relatives and rescue workers. From 2002-2004, he served as pastor to five parishes in the high desert of northeastern New Mexico, and founded Pax Christi New Mexico, a region of Pax Christi USA.
In 2006, he led a demonstration against the U.S. war in Iraq in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2009, he joined the Creech 14 in a civil disobedience protest at Creech Air Force base against the U.S. drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was arrested and put in the Clark County, Nevada jail for a night. He was later found guilty but given time served.
Over the years, he has given thousands of lectures on peace, disarmament and nonviolence in churches, schools and universities across the United States, and around the world, including national speaking tours of Australia, New Zealand and England.
He writes a weekly column for the National Catholic Reporter. He is also featured in several other books and featured in a wide variety of U.S. publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is featured in the DVD documentary film, The Narrow Path, and the subject of John Dear On Peace, by Patti Normile (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009).
John Dear has received several Peace awards, including the 2010 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa; and the Courage of Conscience Award, from the Peace Abbey in Boston, Massachusetts.
John Dear has been also nominated several times for the Nobel Peace prize, most notably, in January, 2008, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. John Dear “is the embodiment of a peacemaker,” Archbishop Tutu wrote. “He has led by example through his actions and in his writings and in numerous sermons, speeches and demonstrations. He believes that peace is not something static, but rather to make peace is to be engaged, mind, body and spirit. His teaching is to love yourself, to love your neighbor, your enemy, and to love the world and to understand the profound responsibility in doing all of these. He is a man who has the courage of his convictions and who speaks out and acts against war, the manufacture of weapons and any situation where a human being might be at risk through violence. Fr John Dear has studied and follows the teachings of nonviolence as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He serves the homeless and the marginalized and sees each person as being of infinite worth. I would hope that were he to receive this honor his teachings and activities might become more widely accepted and adopted. The world would undoubtedly become a better and more peaceful place if this were to happen.”