Statement – Edith Bell, Target of Illegal FBI Spying

March 14, 2006

Illegal FBI / JTTF Spying >>

The Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice was founded in 1972 to bring people from diverse philosophies and faiths together to work, through nonviolent efforts, for a more just and peaceful world. Through protests and ongoing projects, members of TMC aim to instill in our society a consciousness of values and to raise the moral questions involved in the issues of war, poverty, racism and oppression.

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I have been concerned about peace and justice issues most of my life and do not intend to slow down now. I was born in Hamburg, Germany and fled to the Netherlands at age 13 with my parents to escape the Nazi regime and the persecution of Jews. With the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, Hitler's laws became law also in the Netherlands. Although my father had fought in World War I in the German army, and Hitler had promised the Jewish veterans "the Fatherland will be grateful," my parents and I were taken to concentration camps, where both my parents died. I survived through lucky circumstances.

I became a citizen in 1960, and soon joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and have been active in the peace and justice movement ever since. I helped start a chapter of WILPF in Athens, West Virginia where my husband and I lived for 29 years with our children.

When my husband died four years ago, I moved to Pittsburgh where I got involved with the local peace movement, started another chapter of WILPF and soon thereafter was asked to join the board of the Thomas Merton Center. I have been a board member ever since. I also helped start a group of Raging Grannies in Pittsburgh. We are women over 50 who are concerned with peace and justice issues. We express ourselves in song, as a way to bring music to the movement.

As a Holocaust survivor, I am very aware of what can happen when whole groups of people are declared subhuman, may they be Jews, Arabs, gays, African-Americans or Indians. You can treat them anyway you like, and your conscience won't bother you, as they are not human. Therefore I speak out when people are categorized and called names.

I am also very much concerned about my freedom to speak out, and realize that even if Patriot Act restrictions may not affect me personally right now, that can easily change. It is important that we get involved and protect everybody's rights, before new laws make it dangerous to take a stand, as I have seen happen in Nazi Germany.

I am not surprised that files are being kept on peaceful protests, as our government has been trying to quell opposition. They say you can't speak up to say what you feel or what you think. I thought that's what America stands for, that we have freedom of speech.

Knowing that the FBI is spying on my activities is not going to impact what I do or what I say. If I let it stop me then they will have accomplished their desire to stifle opposition. If I stop speaking up how can I expect others to speak up?

My grandchildren keep me going, and I worry about the world we are leaving for them. So I will keep fighting and am not going to stop now.

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