Peace activist Berg honored by University

Raynor Denitzio

The father of a private contractor who was murdered by Iraqi insurgents in May of 2004 received the annual peace award from the Center for Peace and Justice on Oct. 27. The Adela-Dwyer St. Thomas of Villanova Peace award started in 1990 to recognize outstanding contributions to understandings of peace and justice. Past winners include Habitat for Humanity, Project Hope, Noam Chomsky and last year’s winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Michael Berg, a retired school teacher and peace activist from Delaware, was honored this year following the widely-publicized death of his son in Iraq.Berg spoke of the many people who had touched his life and shaped the views he holds today. Chief among them was his late son, Nick.Berg talked of being moved by the missionary work his son undertook. Nick Berg took many trips to help underdeveloped people in Africa prior to his work in Iraq. “(Nick) was a soldier of peace who walked the earth with a tool belt, not a gun,” Berg said.Although Berg and his son disagreed about the war in Iraq, each respected the other’s opinion. Berg said he felt immense pride when he dropped his son off at the airport as he left to help rebuild Iraq. After his son was taken hostage and murdered, Berg said he lashed out in the media at President George Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for causing his son’s death. In his darkest hour, he said it was his son who helped him through “The only thing that kept me from self-destruction was Nick,” Berg said.One day following his son’s death, Berg happened upon a course catalog from Immaculata University. By chance, he opened to a page with a course entitled “Forgiveness: The Sweetest Revenge.”Through this class, Berg was able not to condone, but understand the men who he believes ultimately caused his son’s death. An exercise in which he was asked to imagine a hypothetical conversation with all the parties involved acted as a sort of catharsis.”I still cannot condone, but I can understand. I can see their wounds,” Berg said.He went on to say that more violence is not the answer.”The perpetual cycle of death and violence must stop somewhere,” said Berg. “It must stop with me. It must stop with you.”Berg also echoed a call for self-determination for the Middle East, calling for “sovereignty for the Middle East, a government by the Middle East, for the Middle East, and not by the United States.”We must live in peace with our neighbors if any of us is to go on living,” Berg said. Following the award presentation, those in attendance were invited to a candlelight vigil and walk to commemorate the death of the 2,000th American soldier to die in Iraq since the war began in the spring of 2003.