From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists join war protest near U.N.

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 11 Dec 2002 15:32:49 -0600

Dec. 11, 2002  News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212)870-38037New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - About a dozen United Methodists were among the 100-odd
demonstrators arrested Dec. 10 near the United Nations while protesting a
possible U.S. war with Iraq.

Following an interfaith rally that drew more than 200 people, some of the
demonstrators engaged in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience by blocking
the front entrance of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. About 12 to 15
United Methodists, mostly clergy from the denomination's New York Conference,
were among those arrested by New York police and charged with disorderly
conduct. Others arrested included Ben Cohen, a co-founder of Ben and Jerry's
ice cream, and Daniel Ellsberg, the peace activist involved in the Pentagon
Papers scandal of the Vietnam War era.

The Rev. Bryan Hooper, pastor of Washington Square United Methodist Church
and one of those arrested, said police were cordial as they placed plastic
handcuffs on demonstrators, who spent several hours in holding cells before
being processed and released.

The Rev. James Fitzgerald, a United Methodist currently serving as minister
for mission and social justice at the interdenominational Riverside Church,
declared that religious people should not be silent about the fact that a war
with Iraq makes no sense.

"I think the rush to war is poisoning the soul of America," he told United
Methodist News Service just before the interfaith rally began. "Instead of
having a war on terror, we should have a war on the root causes of

The Rev. Richard Parker, a retired United Methodist clergyman, seconded the
need "for us to have a strong United Methodist witness against a pre-emptive
strike at this time."

It is precisely because the U.S. government seems focused on going to war
that "we need to stand up and say no," added the Rev. Sarah Lamar-Sterling,
pastor of Nicholas United Methodist Church in Trumbull, Conn.

All three were among those arrested after the rally.

The demonstration in New York was one of many being sponsored across the
nation on International Human Rights Day by United for Peace, a coalition of
70 peace and religious groups. Endorsers of the civil disobedience action in
New York included the Methodist Federation for Social Action, National
Council of Churches and Church World Service. The Rev. James Lawson, a
retired United Methodist pastor and well-known civil rights leader, led the
training for that action.

"We've seen in New York what violence does to people," said the Rev. Carol
Cox, New York District superintendent, who attended the rally but was not
involved in the police action. "As a Christian and a Methodist, I can't see
perpetuating violence as a way of solving problems."

A full-page ad in the Dec. 4 edition of The New York Times, bought by a new
coalition called "Religious Leaders for Sensible Priorities," urged President
Bush to "turn back from the brink of war on Iraq" and noted that such a war
"would violate the tenets, prayers and entreaties of your own United
Methodist Church bishops."

Although it mentioned him only by title and not by name, the ad also quoted
Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society, who said, "It is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, our Lord and
Savior and the Prince of Peace, would support this proposed attack."

The Rev. Richard Deats, a United Methodist pastor who serves as
communications coordinator for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, pointed out
that the threat of U.S. unilateral action against Iraq bypasses a tradition
of negotiation on such issues, working through the United Nations and world

"Saddam Hussein has been demonized to the point of obsession," he said of
Iraq's leader. "We don't see the human face of the Iraqi people."

United Methodist News Service
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