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Interview issue: Jim and Eva Manly

Campaigners for Palestinians

By Pieta Woolley

Eva Manly, 76, and Rev. Jim Manly, 82, were married in 1959 and have lived out their faith through their activism. In 2012, at age 79, Jim — a United Church minister and former New Democrat MP — sailed toward Gaza with the blockade-breaking ship the Estelle and spent several days in an Israeli prison. Today, he and Eva, who is a filmmaker and video artist, live in Nanaimo, B.C. They recently talked to Pieta Woolley.

Eva: Jim liked me when we first met as teenagers because I’d read a book he’d read that no one else had ever heard of. Gösta Berlings Saga is about a well-liked priest in a remote Swedish village. He leaves his post and marries a young woman. They have all kinds of adventures helping other people.

Jim: I was never good at going in cold to a logging camp and making calls to persuade people to come to church. It’s just not my thing. So I was glad to get a job in the pulp mill [while serving in Port Alice, B.C.]. I knew what to do. I swept the floors, pulled pulp, then worked in the finishing room and then in the lab, which was kind of fun.

Eva: When Jim was away [from his ministry in Kitamaat Village, B.C.], I’d have pyjama parties. So I got to know people really, really well. Kitamaat is the only place I’ve ever been homesick for.

Jim: Eva makes me tick. She’s had a profound effect on my thinking, although she didn’t think she would have.

Eva: We still enjoy each other’s company. We still make each other laugh.

Jim: We still make each other mad.

Eva: We realize how fortunate we’ve been. We’ve been through colon cancer, two heart bypass surgeries. We have four healthy children. And we are fortunate to live where we are.

Jim: My faith is in God who is a spirit that is in all things and reaches a certain point in human beings when they are fully alive. It’s a matter of trust. My faith is a matter of trust, not a matter of belief in dogma.

Eva: My faith is in the essential goodness that is possible when we choose to work with positive energy.

Eva: I find Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream most fitting right now. It represents artistically so many of the images I’m seeing from wartorn people, where the West is so heavily implicated in the pain and suffering they’re experiencing.

Jim: My church inspires my activism because there’s so much indifference. I don’t want to exaggerate that. There are people in the congregation who are activist. But there are many who think that if something has anything to do with politics, it should be eschewed.

Jim: Politics is attempting to translate your ideals for society and the environment into concrete policies. And working with others and involving yourself in compromises in order to do so.

Eva: I admire the Israelis working for peace. This is not a popular time in Israel to be opposed to the war on Gaza, but there’s a significant number who continue to speak out.

Jim: The situation I found myself in [in Israel, when I was detained for sailing with the Estelle] was very mild compared to the prison experiences of millions around the world. I wouldn’t want to cheapen their experience by making a comparison to my three-day experience in an internment where I had decent food and a place to sleep.

Eva: The most difficult part [when he was in prison] was the period with no communication and no information. . . . Jim’s first phone call was when I was on the subway going to General Council. I had a phone message from Jim telling me he was fine.

Eva: We support each other’s activism, and we complement each other.

Jim: Being published is my goal. I’ve been working for 11 or 12 years on the history of the Alberni and Ahousaht residential schools in the early years.

Jim: I regret that when I was a student minister in New Denver, B.C., I wasn’t interested in the Japanese or the Doukhobor children who were interned. When I was a minister in Kitamaat, that I didn’t stay longer and get a job at Alcan. When I was a minister in Parliament, I was too partisan. The list goes on.

Eva: I regret many things. Losses of relationships, opportunities missed, too much activity, which forecloses the real possibility for connection. Not following some possibilities that were presented out of lack of confidence.

Jim: I enjoy music, singing on my own: hymns, country songs, folk songs, hits of the 1940s. I am not a great singer. I don’t sing in public.

Eva: I find joy in nature, in meeting other people and in hearing about their experiences. And in reading.

Eva: We haven’t had TV since 1997. But we love going to films.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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