Bahai News -- Courier-Journal - Believers unite in Prayer for Peace

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Believers unite in Prayer for Peace

By Peter Smith
The Courier-Journal

In a somber, silent procession, members of several religions filed down the long center aisle of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville, following a man holding a single candle.

It was a small symbol, said the Rev. William Hammer, but the use of candles in prayer is one of the most widespread of all religious practices -- and it is ''a way to experience the light of God guiding us in times of darkness.''

About 200 people gathered late yesterday afternoon for an interfaith Prayer for Peace service.

The cathedral's soaring walls echoed with a meditative set of hymns, prayers and Scriptures that were read in Arabic, English and Hebrew.

The Kentuckiana Interfaith Community organized the service in response to the war in Iraq and the fears that it could widen into a religious conflict.

Members of the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i faiths participated.

''My heart is certainly heavy with the times, yet I find my spirit lifted by the opportunity to pray together with people,'' said Hammer, who directs the Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

''Regardless of our position on the war itself, we all know there are innocent people who are being impacted (and who can be) aided by our prayers,'' he said.

G.A. Shareef, a Muslim prayer leader from the Islamic Cultural Center of Louisville, said it is important for people to renounce religiously motivated violence.

''When we do (violence) in the name of God, it is the greatest lie,'' he said.

In the service, Associate Rabbi Nadia Siritsky of The Temple read from the Book of Isaiah, reciting the promise of a time when nations would stop their warfare and ''beat their swords into plowshares.''

The Rev. Kathy Ogletree Goodwin, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition and pastor of Coke Memorial United Methodist Church, read from the Gospel of Matthew: ''Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.''

Shareef recited a prayer from the opening verses of the Quran: ''Show us the right path of life, the path of those who earn your favors.''

The religious leaders took turns reading from a proclamation that was formulated at an interfaith prayer summit in Assisi, Italy, called by Pope John Paul II in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

''Violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion,'' it went, ''and as we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or of religion, we commit ourselves to doing everything possible to eliminate the root causes of terrorism.''

The Rev. Ron Gaddie, president of the Kentucky Council of Churches and pastor of Highland United Methodist Church, read a series of prayers for peace, for the safety of members of armed forces, for the comfort of their families and for the people of Iraq.

Those attending the service found it encouraging.

''When we heard it was going to be held, we knew we had to be part of it,'' said Claudia Grenough of Louisville. ''We have been in mourning for the last two weeks and grieving for the world. Praying for peace is the only thing we can do to help the situation.''

Lynn Fischer of Louisville said she was drawn to the service by the ''belief that if we all talk to each other and pray together, we can move beyond this.''

Roy Fuller, executive director of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, said it was important to call the service because religion has been used to justify both violence and peace.

The service ''was a somber occasion, but it's always something of a celebration that faiths in Louisville can gather together because, as we know, that doesn't happen everywhere in the world,'' he said.

In addition to the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, sponsors included the Archdiocese of Louisville, Cathedral Heritage Foundation, Interfaith Paths to Peace and the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition.

©Copyright 2003, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY, USA)

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