By the Free Gaza Team
Sister Anne reading the names of the murdered sailors on board the USS Liberty
When we started to organize a passenger list for that first voyage, several of us reached out to a handful of religious leaders we hoped would come with us. For one reason or another, they all turned us down. It’s not that we wanted our boats blessed or anything. We just thought it would be ‘ecumenical’ to be all-inclusive.
Mary Hughes Thompson, one of the co-founders of Free Gaza mentioned that she had been with Sister Anne in Palestine and in Iraq and volunteered to contact her and ask her if she’d like to join us. She immediately and enthusiastically told Mary she’d be delighted.
Then we found out that she had been involved for decades with Plowshares. Most of us had never heard of the movement before, but we were game. We had no idea we were soon to meet one of the most remarkable women of our voyage; a woman who had participated in the first Plowshares action against nuclear weapons on September 9, 1980. She had also been part of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in the occupied West bank, Iraq and the Balkans.
Those of us who weren’t Catholic were a bit apprehensive about meeting her that first time. What do you say to a nun? Would she fit in with so many of us activists who followed no religion? Yes, we knew she was part of CPT, but they prayed every day, twice a day. Some of us were lucky we had prayed twice in our lifetimes.
The day she showed up, Hedy Epstein, Mary Hughes Thompson and Greta Berlin waited for her in Nicosia where everyone was staying and waiting and waiting and waiting for boats we weren’t even sure were real. Around the corner of one of the dorms walked this slight 80-year-old woman with a big grin and covered with freckles.
“Hi. I’m Anne Montgomery. How can I help while we’re here? I can cook.” And it was love at first taste. When Hedy couldn’t go, Anne became the oldest person on board those two boats. She had an unlimited energy level and a great sense of humor. The day we threw roses into the Mediterranean in honor of the Palestinians assassinated by the Israeli navy while fishing and the 34 American sailors on board the USS Liberty, murdered by an Israeli attack (they said it was a mistake… that lasted for over two hours), she read the names.
Sister Anne and the children of Gaza.
While in Gaza, she was constantly surrounded by the children there, a magnet they couldn’t resist. When she returned from the voyage, she returned to Plowshares where she was arrested on All Saints’ Day in 2009 at the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific in Bangor, Washington. After being indicted at age 83 in September 2010 for the All Saints’ Day protest and serving two months in prison, Sister Anne told CNS she felt called to continue protesting nuclear weapons and would do so in one way or another until her last days. She died in 2012 at the age of 85.
Someone once asked her once why she continued to disobey. Her answer was exactly the reason she came with us, “Civil disobedience is, traditionally, the breaking of a civil law to obey a higher law, sometimes with the hope of changing the unjust civil law. The term ‘disobedience’ is not appropriate because any law that does not protect and enhance human life is no real law.”
Hedy and Sister Anne were cut from the same mold, women with a passionate desire to acknowledge that “Never Again” was for everyone, and they would work until the end of their days to make the world a better place.
We’re hoping they are together in whatever form, giving the angels hell for not being more assertive.