Many thousands of Christians -Evangelicals, Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans, peace churches, Black majority congregations and Roman Catholics - are preparing to pray, process and protest throughout the United States on 16 March 2007, to mark the fourth anniversary of the war and occupation of Iraq.
They point out that hundreds of people in Iraq are still dying every week from the continuing chaos wrought out of the conflict, and that America needs a major change of heart on issues of conflict, war and social justice.
The anniversary events will include public prayer, a candlelight procession through the centre of the nation’s capital, Washington DC, vigils in cities and towns across the country, and a protest culminating with 1,500 Christians surrounding the White House with the light of peace.
The 'Christian Peace Witness', organized by a broad cross-section of Christian denominational peace groups and organizations, is expected to be the largest peace gathering of Christians expressing opposition to the war since it began in March 2003.
Prominent religious leaders and peace activists, including Jim Wallis, Rick Ufford-Chase, Celeste Zappala and Bernice Powell Jackson will speak at a worship service, which begins at 7 pm at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C on 16 March. Ironically, it was this Cathedral that President George Bush used to make one of his declarations of intent to invade Iraq, an action which brought protest at the time.
“The mistaken war in Iraq can only be mercifully ended, in ways that cause the least damage to everyone involved: the Americans and the Iraqis, the volatile surrounding region, and a world longing for security,” says Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of the organisers of the series of nationwide events.
After the service, thousands of Christians will make a two-mile candlelit procession to the White House, where a solemn, prayerful vigil will dramatize the Christian call for peace in Iraq. Following the vigil, hundreds of participants, including many clergy members, will encircle the White House with a band of candlelight to express their conviction that the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Jesus calls unequivocally for an end to the war.
“Jesus taught us that nothing could be more impractical, or more foolish, than responding to violence with more violence,” says Rick Ufford-Chase, director of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.
He added: “Congress needs to act swiftly and boldly to challenge the escalation of the war in Iraq. We will pray, worship and protest on March 16th and send a message to our leaders and the world that peace and reconciliation stand at the very heart of the Christian message and our respective traditions.”
Thousands more Christians yearning for just-peace will organize simultaneous rallies and vigils throughout the country. And to date, 20 bus loads of peace pilgrims are travelling from cities throughout the country, say organisers.
More information is avilable at: www.christianpeacewitness.com.
The sponsoring organisations for the events include: Adventist Peace Fellowship, American Friends Service Committee, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Brethren Witness, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Christian Alliance for Progress, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church; Kairos: A Time to Speak, A Time to Act; Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA, No2Torture, On Earth Peace, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, Pax Christi USA, Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Protestants for the Common Good, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, and Sojourners/Call to Renewal.