Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits
By Brook Shelby Biggs
Anita Roddick Publications, 2003
Softcover, 251 pp., $15.00

This book is a collection of 33 short biographies about the lives and actions of people who are deeply committed in changing the world. As the cover of the book states, “You know the names of Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela.” Yet it questions the reader, “But have you ever heard of Roy Bourgeois, Neta Golan, or Sulak Sivaraksa?” There are many brave men and women who are activists and continue in the tradition of faith-based activism.

This book profiles spiritual activists who have fought hard on issues from gay rights to the environment, peace, child advocacy and land reform. It also includes people associated with the Communist Party USA. They are Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Baha’is and Hindus. They are ordinary people who are able to do extraordinary things.

Some of the lives profiled in this collection will be more familiar than others. All of the lives of these “brave hearts” are moving. This book features Mother Jones, the famous labor agitator, Cesar Chavez, who founded the United Farm Workers, Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker movement, and Roy Bourgeois, who founded the School of the Americas Watch.

Many activists worked for the rights of aboriginal peoples from the United States and Australia. The book also features features Trident Ploughshares, a British interfaith peace activist group. I learned about the heroic sacrifices of Janusz Korczak, who during the Nazi invasion of Poland refused to abandon the children left in his care at his orphanage.

It features A.J. Muste, called the “American Gandhi,” who not only was a labor leader but a Quaker and special guest at one of the Communist Party’s conventions. Bayard Rustin was a former Young Communist League member, Quaker and openly gay. He was a civil rights leader who worked with Martin Luther King Jr.

“Brave Hearts” features Neta Golan, an Israeli citizen, who stands between Palestinians and Israeli bullets, and shouts down, in Hebrew, Israeli troops. When asked if she were suicidal or had a death wish, she replied “no,” but said that someone has to do something to end the violence. She and other Israeli activists work hard to end the occupation of Palestinian lands, as well as to end discrimination and segregation in Israel.

This book calls these brave hearts “modern-day prophets of change,” and indeed they are. It’s a great inspiration and challenges each of us to live up to our ideals and to strive to make a positive change in our world.