Baha'i News -- Worshippers protest war by demonstrating peace
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Worshippers protest war by demonstrating peace

10/28/02

SHELBY OPPEL

Some peace demonstrations have signs, megaphones and crowds of people in the streets. Others, such as the one Sunday at First United Methodist Church in downtown Portland, are quieter, with prayers instead of shouting.

This demonstration -- for peace with Iraq -- came in the form of a worship service, beginning with a procession of about 20 faith leaders that included Christian clergy, a Jewish rabbi, a Zen Buddhist monk, a Sikh and others. About 50 people behind them in the honey-colored pews included Roman Catholics from Southeast Portland, Methodists from Oregon City, Muslims from Northeast Portland and Jews, Buddhists and Bahais.

Their message was to remind themselves that their traditions call believers to work for peace, to be compassionate and to repay abuse with love, even in a time of impending war.

"At all places and at all times, we have an essential task, which is to be compassionate, to be able to live love," said the Venerable Hogan Bays, co-abbott of the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie. "To work for peace, we must be peace."

In Portland and nationally, religious leaders and groups who object to President Bush's rationale for military intervention in Iraq, as well as those that support his plans, have tried to sway the nation's path through public statements and protests. Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and the Interfaith Council of Greater Portland, which sponsored the Sunday service, gathered two dozen faith leaders earlier this month for a news conference to object to the war.

Nationally, anti-war groups include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which in a Sept. 13 letter to Bush urged him to "step back from the brink of war" because an attack does not meet criteria for just war found in Catholic social teaching. A coalition of more than 100 Christian ethicists, from evangelical and liberal backgrounds, signed a statement opposing a pre-emptive strike on moral grounds.

Also objecting to war on Iraq are leaders of the United Methodist Church -- of which Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are members; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; the United Church of Christ; and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Other faith groups have taken an opposite stand. Baptist leaders such as Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, have argued that a strike on Iraq does fit just war criteria because it would be done with just intent, with limited goals and as a last resort, among other reasons.

The conservative Family Research Council, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also have expressed support for Bush's plans.

In Portland, speakers at the Sunday service touched briefly on political reasons for not attacking Iraq, declaring that Bush has not exhausted all peaceful alternatives and that war would bring more, not less, suffering to the Iraqi people. But this audience was already convinced, so their prayers were that others would soon agree.

"We pray we are not too late to inspire enough others to join us as we now declare peace, not war," said the Rev. Gabrielle Chavez of Christ the Healer United Church of Christ in Beaverton.

Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield of Congregation P'nai Or strummed a guitar and led the congregation in singing "shalom," then "salam," the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace. Holy Kaur Khalsa, a Sikh, intoned a Sanskrit chant that meant "the essence of peace is in our hearts."

Before the organ hit the first notes of "We Shall Overcome," the Rev. Minerva Carcano, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church, called those in attendance to live their faith, even if their message isn't popular.

"Let us commit to proclaim peace and pursue peace until the whole world hears," Carcano said. "And let God be our strength."

Shelby Oppel: 503-221-5368 or shelbyoppel@news.oregonian.com.

©Copyright 2002, The Oregonian


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