Activist nuns take aim at military companies
By Leslie Wayne The New York Times
Saturday, February 19, 2005
NEW YORK Decades ago, and during a different war, many churches were at the forefront of antiwar efforts, whether it was the high-profile activism of the Catholic Berrigan brothers, who splattered blood on draft records, or mainstream church marches against nuclear weapons.
While most of that activism has since fallen away, a hardy band of Catholic nuns has remained true to the cause of peace - though activism today takes them to corporate boardrooms and shareholders' meetings. Nuns from dozens of orders are completing resolutions to be introduced at shareholder meetings this spring.
Of course, no one is saying that companies like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics or Raytheon are about to lay down their arms. But military companies, faced with the persistent nuns on their doorsteps, have begun to meet with them, and, in some cases, have begun to see their business in different ways.
"We are raising questions that no one asks but us," said Valerie Heinonen, a Catholic nun and social responsibility consultant in New York. "Part of what we are doing is planting seeds. These companies have an overwhelming influence wherever they operate and I don't think religious bodies should be separate from that."
The shareholder proposals to be offered by the nuns would make any military executive squirm. At the top of the agenda is limiting foreign military sales in countries where the arms can fall into the hands of child soldiers or perpetuate never-ending wars. The nuns are also promoting an ethical code of conduct that holds arms makers accountable for the impact of their business on the environment, and on the political and social stability of countries where they operate.