From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Religious leaders call for peace

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 22 Jan 2003 14:44:54 -0600

Jan. 22, 2003	     News media contact: Joretta Purdue7(202)
546-87227Washington	10-21-31-71BP{030}

NOTE: Photographs will be available with this report.

By Carol Fouke-Mpoyo*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - An estimated 3,200 people filled the National Cathedral
Jan. 20 to pray for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis. Afterward,
worshipers marched down Massachusetts Avenue to the White House, bearing
candles and "War Is Not the Answer" placards.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Service for Peace and Justice focused
on the connection between war and poverty. The theme of the service was
inspired by the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., spoken in the
cathedral 34 years ago, when the Vietnam War was at its height.  During his
last Sunday sermon, just four days before he was assassinated, King
challenged the country to "find an alternative to war."

"Imagine that the kind of time, creativity and money that are being poured
into preparations for war against Iraq were being poured instead into the
challenge of ending poverty in the United States and around the world," said
the Rev. Bob Edgar, staff head of the National Council of Churches and a
United Methodist clergyman.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was right - war diverts attention and resources from
the needs of impoverished people, especially the children. War is an enemy of
the poor."

The ecumenical service was co-sponsored by the National Council of Churches,
Children's Defense Fund, Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Call to Renewal
and Sojourners. Leaders of at least 24 denominations, faith-based
organizations and religious orders participated.

Bishop Felton Edwin May, of the United Methodist Church's
Baltimore-Washington Conference, read a Scripture passage.

The service's three segments - "for peace," "for the eradication of poverty
and racism" and "for the world" - each included readings from King's last
Sunday sermon, March 31, 1968. Each segment also included Scripture, prayer
and a brief reflection.

"Most gracious God .... (H)elp us today to remember that our gathering in
this cathedral is not a time for demonstration," said the Rt. Rev. John
Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington, in his reflection on "for
peace," which he offered in the form of a prayer. 

"Help our nation, its leaders and the leaders of Iraq and other nations that
would use violence as a threat or means to accomplish their ends to
understand that we are living in a new global age, where war is no longer an
option in settling disputes.

"Most gracious God," he continued, "help us as a nation to use the richness
of our wealth, technology, medical research and agricultural abundance as the
new 'weapons of mass rebuilding' in our war against violence, poverty,
disease, famine and the feeling of hopelessness that billions of people on
this planet now experience. May we seek to remove from our language once and
for all the phrase 'weapons of mass destruction!'"

The Rev. Jim Wallis, executive director and editor of Sojourners and the
convener of Call to Renewal, reflected on "for the world." "Today," he said,
"we pray to God and plead with our national leaders to avoid the
destructiveness of war and find a better way to resolve the very real threats
involved in this conflict with Iraq. We believe that is possible, and we
believe we can still stop this war before it starts.

"From this National Cathedral and then in our candlelight vigil at the White
House," Wallis said, "we appeal to President George W. Bush today, not in
anger but in hope, to a fellow brother in Christ, to heed the words of the
prophets, the words of our brother, Martin Luther King Jr., the words of
Jesus, the prince of peace - to win this battle without war, to transform our
swords into plowshares, and, yes, to persevere in disarming the world of
weapons of mass destruction - all of them, including our own - but without
the killing of more innocents."

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, offered the
reflection on "for the eradication of poverty and racism."

Organizers of the service pointed out that, by most accounts, war with Iraq
would cost at least $100 billion - at a time when domestic spending is facing
a large cut. That $100 million, they note, is three times the amount spent by
the federal government on K-12 education. It is also enough money to provide
health care to all uninsured children under age 5 in the United States for
the next five years.
# # #
*Fouke-Mpoyo is the communications staff person for the National Council of

United Methodist News Service
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