Bahai News -- Sarasota Herald-Tribune - 1,000 gather to pray for peace Jan 02, 2003

1,000 gather to pray for peace

BY JENA HOWARD CORRESPONDENT

ENGLEWOOD -- The speakers were Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha'i, but the message was the same at the Prayers for World Peace service at Englewood United Methodist Church on Wednesday.



STAFF PHOTO / BERT CASS /
bert.cass@heraldtribune.com

Give peace a chance.


Event leaders sang, spoke and prayed at the 13th annual New Year's Day rally for peace, one of many rallies held across the nation. They asked the nearly 1,000 people who attended to pray for world peace and to sign petitions protesting war with Iraq.

The 21/2-hour program was sponsored by the Southwest Florida Peace Education Coalition, the Englewood Area Ministerial Association and the Peace River Coalition.

"We as Americans are shaping the destiny of a lot of people around the world," said the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, the keynote speaker and moderator for the Presbyterian Church USA of Atlanta.


"We need to be more responsible in our behavior," the Palestinian born Abu-Akel said. "We are dealing with billions of people in the rest of the world, and we know zero about their history."

Abu-Akel said he could not have graduated from high school in Galilee without being proficient in three languages: Arabic, his native tongue; Hebrew, which he started learning in fourth grade; and English.

"I would like to see the day when graduating Americans will understand the languages and cultures of the rest of the world," he said.


Abu-Akel said the United States needs to tell Israel to end the 35-year occupation of the West Bank. The area could be self-supporting without American money if tourism were actively promoted.

"Three billion human beings want to visit Jerusalem each year," he said. "Floridians understand you cannot have a healthy economy without tourism. Unless they can exist in peace, there is no future."

Samar Jarrah, representing the Islamic Community of Southwest Florida in Port Charlotte, said Americans could prevent the deaths of innocent people by speaking out against war. "We are asking you, the American people to save us," Jarrah said.


Peace Day coordinator August Scmitz read "The Mother's Song," a Jewish prayer written by Miriam Schneid-Ofseyer of North Port. It called for an international alliance of mothers against war.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have a history of bloodshed, said the Rev. Arthur Lee, rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Englewood.

"Without forgiveness, the past will repeat itself over and over and and over," Lee said. "If we forgive, we become the sons and daughters of God, who forgives us."


Last modified: January 02. 2003 12:00AM

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