Pittsburgh City Council honors Thomas Merton Center

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The Thomas Merton Center, founded in 1972, has "never wavered" in its advocacy for peace, city Councilman Bill Peduto said.

And this morning, after Mr. Peduto read a proclamation honoring the Garfield group for its 40-year commitment and naming today "Thomas Merton Center Day" in Pittsburgh, there was no wavering.

Instead, there was more advocacy.

Molly Rush, one of the founding members of the center, stepped up to the microphone in City Council Chambers on Grant Street, Downtown, to promise that city council would hear from the Thomas Merton Center again soon. She said its members are planning to urge the city to conduct an annual report on the impact of military spending in Pittsburgh.

"We think it's an appropriate time to raise that again," in light of discussions about the so-called fiscal cliff, said Ms. Rush, 77, of Dormont, in an interview after the proclamation was issued.

Raising issues about peace and social justice has been the constant theme of the center's 40-year history. The group began with the goal of calling for a peaceful end to the Vietnam War, but it continued beyond the end of that war and through the start of several others.

Its focus expanded -- to the economy, the environment, labor issues, the rights of women and prisoners -- while its mission remained centered on peace and justice.

"We are about justice and equality and stopping oppression. Raising the flag where other people are afraid to," said Diane McMahon, managing director of the Thomas Merton Center.

The group, with five full-time staffers and about 450 members, has never had many resources, but it has survived for four decades with the passion and support of its supporters, Ms. McMahon said.

"We've always been on the edge. Never had enough money, but we've always somehow managed to squeeze through," Ms. Rush said.

As the center enters its 41st year, Ms. Rush and Ms. McMahon said they've seen their work and the work of others yield some progress -- in the areas of women's rights and gay rights, for example -- but they said there was much left to do.

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