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Interfaith Council ponders what it means to seek peace

By LARRY MITCHELL - Staff Writer

Considering that "Blessed are the peacemakers" is among the Bible's most famous lines, it's not surprising the Chico Area Interfaith Council turned its attention to war and peace this week.

America's apparently looming war against Iraq was among items on the agenda at Wednesday's meeting of the council, which represents some "mainline" Christian congregations and other religious groups.

"It seems like everybody doesn't want this to happen," said Cathy Webster, a member of the Newman Center and the council's vice president. But for some reason, people seem hesitant to speak out against invading Iraq, she added.

"I am curious about what's going on in our (faith) communities," said Jim Anderson, who represents Chico's society of Quakers.

"We are doing a lot of e-mailing to the government," said council president Carolyn McKeown, minister at Chico's Spiritual Enrichment Center. If the war starts, her congregation will hold a vigil, she noted.

The Rev. Ellen Rowan, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, described herself as a pacifist and said from the pulpit, she's been speaking out against U.S. military action in the Middle East.

Taking another position, Tatiana Fassieux, a member of the Newman Center, said, "As the mother of a soon-to-be second lieutenant in the Army, I am 100 percent in favor of my son wanting to serve his country."

"I am a parent of a soldier. I will support him. I will not speak out against a just war," she said.

John Henneberry, a member of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, said historically, America has not attacked other countries without first being attacked itself. How could America's striking first at Iraq be considered a just war, he wondered.

Maybe it's time to think in new ways about what it means to seek peace, suggested the Rev. Michael Newman, pastor at the Newman Catholic Center.

During the '60s, like a lot of others, he marched in anti-war protests, he said. Lately, he's been hearing "that developing a climate of peace is an antidote to war."

"On Christmas Eve, I talked about how we need to cultivate peace in our own hearts," he said.

Rabbi Yitzhak Nates of Congregation Beth Israel said he sees a flaw in the American consciousness. "There's a long-standing idea that taking a life makes me a man," he said.

"Definitely, a change of consciousness is called for," McKeown said.

"We have to be active citizens and let our legislators know how we feel," Fassieux said.

That suggestion didn't please the Rev. Philip Persson of the Congregational Church of Chico. "It's a done deal," he said. "We can preach love and individual spirituality. (President Bush) is still going to send us to war."

Ralph Schreiber, who represents the local Baha'i community, said the search for peace is really a quest for a perfect world.

He urged people to imagine what human relationships might be like in a perfect world.

©Copyright 2003, Chico Enterprise Record (Chico, CA, USA)

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