Bahai News -- Knoxville News-Sentinel - Comforting colleagues

Comforting colleagues


The Rev. Julian Spitzer, retired pastor of Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church, speaks out Thursday during a meeting of the Knoxville Ministerial Association at Central Baptist Church of Bearden.

Clergy, activists share views on war

March 21, 2003

Remove his antiwar yard sign or not? That is a concern for the Rev. John Lackey, a retired United Church of Christ minister.

"I fought in World War II. I remember the parade and how they greeted us in San Francisco when we returned," said Lackey, who is also a founding member of the East Tennessee Interfaith Alliance chapter.

"I also remember Vietnam and how no one cheered for them. I can't do the same thing to the ones who are in Iraq.

"Do we continue to oppose the war? Symbolically, what would it be saying to our sons and daughters overseas?"

Lackey posed this and other questions Thursday to fellow members of the Knoxville Ministerial Association, Knoxville's oldest interfaith and interracial organization of area clergy. The group met at Central Baptist Church of Bearden and shared their personal reflections and their faiths' stance on war.

"Can we afford, morally speaking, to let a rogue man continue in his path and do what he wants to do?" asked the Rev. Julian Spitzer, who coordinates the Knoxville Inner City Churches United for People (KICCUP).

Rabbi Beth Schwartz emphasized that there is no expiration date to how long people should pray, and to recognize that what we see may not be the totality of God's response to those prayers.

"A pre-emptive strike does not mean that God does not want peace," she said.

Simin Mohajer, a member of the greater Knoxville Baha'i community, said her faith teaches that if peace is to exist in the world, it starts in America.

"Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the ones of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world," said fellow Baha'i Rita Rahmanian, quoting "A Prayer for America" from Baha'iwritings.

"I was against the war, but since we're there and they were very selective in their targets last night, I think they'll try to minimize civilian casualties," said the Rev. Albert Pierson, retired Presbyterian minister.

Across the area, religious leaders and social activists shared their concerns and how they are comforting their congregations and colleagues.

"As an organization, we support our troops," said Attica Scott, executive director of Knoxville's National Conference for Community and Justice. "Our focus is more on community solidarity and support. We know of Arabs in our community who are living in fear. I know our local Muslim community is concerned and called on us to be an ally. We are an ally to the Muslim community, to the Jewish community and all of our communities of faith."

The Muslim Student Association and the Muslim Community of Knoxville issued a statement in which they prayed for minimal casualties during the conflict.

"We would like to remind our fellow citizens that among the men and women serving in the armed forces today are Muslims. It is our hope that in this time of war, Americans will remember the ideals and standards of our great country, one where all men and women are afforded equal rights, respect and dignity," the statement read.

The Rev. Richard Brown, pastor of Payne Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, said his congregation has focused on reassuring families whose loved are in the military overseas that they are encircled in God's warm, loving light despite their angst and sorrow.

The Rev. Harold Middlebrook, senior pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, agreed.

"No matter how many activities that they have it's hard to fill the loneliness and anguish that they feel," he said. "They are on the brink of death, and we have to console them and comfort through all of that."

Jeannine F. Hunter may be reached at 865-342-6324.

©Copyright 2003, Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN, USA)

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