Fact Sheet - The Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice

The Thomas Merton Center 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.

The Center was founded to honor the life and ideals of Thomas Merton, a writer and Trappist Monk who entered Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky in 1941 and remained a member of the community until his death in 1968. He is considered one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the 20th century, penning over 60 books, hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality, civil rights, nonviolence and the nuclear arms race. Merton has been called the "conscience of the peace movement of the 1960s," and was praised by the Dalai Lama for his profound understanding of Buddhism.

The Center's activities over the years have included organizing the first Amnesty International chapter in Pittsburgh, helping the Jubilee Soup Kitchen and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank get underway, arranging the Witness for Peace visits to Central America, facilitating the Pittsburgh/San Isidro (Nicaragua) Sister City Project and other direct aid projects, working against the nuclear arms race and wasteful military spending and supporting boycotts like the INFACT campaign against Nestle.

In our more than 30 years of existence, the Center has educated and organized against world and local hunger, exploitation of workers, militarism, and racial discrimination in Pittsburgh. In our first year, we not only protested the continuation of the war in Vietnam, but also worked with a human needs coalition to reverse federal cutbacks, raised funds for Medical Aid to Indochina and for the Bach Mai Hospital in Vietnam and provided information for schools and religious education programs on racism, poverty and war.

During the 1980s, we joined the River City Campaign to challenge local nuclear weapons producers, Rockwell and Westinghouse, with weekly vigils, leaflets and other actions. Also in the 1980s, Pittsburgh delegations traveled to Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, as part of the Witness for Peace efforts to a Sister City in San Isidro, Nicaragua. As the industrial might of Pittsburgh was dismantled, the Center supported efforts to keep jobs at good wages.

Over the past few years, racial and economic justice, non-violence, global justice and anti-war issues have become the key organizing focus of the Center. Center projects such as Save Our Transit, our Labor Solidarity campaigns and the Anti-War Committee have helped to fight for public transit funding, support living wage campaigns and to stop the war in Iraq. The Center also runs the East End Community Thrift Store and our project Book'em provides free books to prisoners.

In addition to its organizing campaigns, the Merton Center has become a resource for dozens of social justice and peace groups in the region. The monthly newspaper, The NewPeople, is a key source of information for activists on current actions, campaigns and events. Our website www.thomasmertoncenter.org provides an up-to-date action calendar and a directory of local groups working for justice, peace and ecology.

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