From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Congress members praise advocates for peace, justice

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 26 Feb 2003 14:48:11 -0600

Feb. 26, 2003 News media contact: Joretta Purdue7(202) 546-87227Washington

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Several members of Congress offered encouragement to
justice advocates during a Feb. 25 reception, and noted the need for focusing
more attention on peace and bolstering neglected parts of the world.

The reception on Capitol Hill provided a break for the advocates, who met in
Washington Feb. 23-26 for panel discussions and briefings on Africa and the
Middle East. The Advocacy Days gathering was to conclude with visits to
representatives and senators.

Speakers such as U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) offered words of support to the
participants. "I think we can all learn a lot from you," he said.

Providing opportunities for people in Africa to have a good quality of life
is important, and that entails working to overcome poverty and AIDS, Holt

Turning to problems in the Middle East, he said: "Violence doesn't win and
neither does the response of violence to violence." 

The event drew people from religious groups all over the United States.
Sponsors were Church World Service, the relief, development and advocacy
organization of 36 denominations; Churches for Middle East Peace; the
Washington Office on Africa; the Africa Faith and Justice Network; the Stand
with Africa Campaign; and Peaceful Ends through Peaceful Means.

"What the church groups do on a sustained basis ... is absolutely vital,"
said U.S. Rep. Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis.), a former Peace Corps volunteer in

The Rev. Robert Edgar, staff head of the National Council of Churches and a
United Methodist clergyman, was emcee for the program. He outlined peace
efforts undertaken by the NCC and other religious groups. Those have included
a visit to Baghdad in early January, in which he and a dozen other people
from religious organizations participated.

Edgar told of five trips to world capitals by small groups of U.S. religious
leaders, made possible by the generosity of one donor. One such group is in
Rome to meet with the pope, he said. Another trip is planned for Moscow.
Delegations have already met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the French Foreign Ministry.

"So many people within the churches have stood up and said, 'We want to be
good friends and good patriots, and that's why we're willing to stand up for
peace,'" Edgar said. 

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) quoted former Congresswoman Barbara
Jordan as saying, "Find the right thing to do and just do it." She told the
advocates, "You are doing that."

"We will be victorious over AIDS," Lee said. "We will be victorious over
hunger. We will be victorious over man and woman's inhumanity to man or
woman." She also urged debt relief for Africa as a matter of life and death.

"I believe this world should elevate peace over war," she added, noting that
she had introduced a resolution Jan. 7 to repeal Congress' Iraq war
resolution. The United States must act responsibly in deciding whether to
send young people to war, she said. "Don't be silenced by those who claim
they would check the litmus of your patriotism."

Edgar then commented that Jim Wallis, the head of Sojourners, has said he
wants to remind President Bush that peace is a faith-based initiative.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) participated in a panel on African issues
with others at the conference. "I came away more inspired by you than I ever
could have inspired you," she said. 

"These are dismal days on the Hill. You've seen what's happening with the
budget," she lamented. "You are feeling what I am feeling about this
administration's lack of understanding - its lack of a will to do the best
job that can be done for the people of this nation and the people of Africa
and other places that need our help."

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United Methodist News Service
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