Who is Kathy Kelly?
International activist Kathy Kelly has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times since 2000. In 1996 she helped to found Voices in the Wilderness, a group which bears witness to the suffering which the US / UN-imposed sanctions have visited upon the people—especially the children—of Iraq. Today, Kathy Kelly, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, (www.vcnv.org) a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare,
Profiled by Katie Watson in Hope magazine (May/June, 2003 issue), Kelly traces her activism to her childhood on the South Side of Chicago. During high school she began to read about the Holocaust. "I remember thinking," she told Watson,"that I never ever-ever-ever want to be the person who is trying to be an innocent bystander while something that awful goes on."
In this excerpt from our interview, Kathy shares some of her personal story and the path that led her from life as a young high school teacher on Chicago’s west side to becoming a voice for peace in conflict areas throughout the world. For those with a passion for social justice and a desire to bring healing to the world, clarity and purpose often emerge from unforeseen experiences. While each journey is different, the road can be transformational.
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, (www.vcnv.org) a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice.
During each of several recent trips to Afghanistan, Kathy, as an invited guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, has lived alongside ordinary Afghan people in a working class neighborhood in Kabul. She and her companions in Voices for Creative Nonviolence believe that “where you stand determines what you see.”
They are resolved not to let war sever the bonds of friendship between them and Afghan people whom they’ve grown to know through successive delegations. Kelly and her companions insist that the U.S. is not waging a “humanitarian war” in Afghanistan.
Kelly has also joined with activists in various regions of the country to protest drone warfare by holding demonstrations outside of U.S. military bases in Nevada, upstate New York, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
During late June and early July of 2011, Kelly was a passenger on the “Audacity to Hope” as part of the US Boat to Gaza project. She also attempted to reach Gaza by flying from Athens to Tel Aviv, as part of the Welcome to Palestine effort, but the Israeli government deported her back to Greece.
In 2009, she lived in Gaza during the final days of the Operation Cast Lead bombing; later that year, Voices formed another small delegation to visit Pakistan, aiming to learn more about the effects of U.S. drone warfare on the civilian population and to better understand consequences of U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan. She returned again to Gaza in November 2012 to meet with the survivors of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense and to hear their stories.
From 1996 – 2003, Voices activists formed 70 delegations that openly defied economic sanctions by bringing medicines to children and families in Iraq. Kathy and her companions lived in Baghdad throughout the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing.
She was sentenced to one year in federal prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites (1988-89) and spent three months in prison, in 2004, for crossing the line at Fort Benning’s military training school. As a war tax refuser, she has refused payment of all forms of federal income tax since 1980.
She and her companions at the Voices home/office in Chicago believe that non-violence necessarily involves simplicity, service, sharing of resources and non-violent direct action in resistance to war and oppression.
Source: Voices for Creative Non-Violence. Click here for a list of articles and essays by Kath and awards received.