After five years of conflict, Christian peace advocates are still asking for an end to the war in Iraq and for accountability surrounding the detention and torture of suspected terrorists and war criminals – writes Gregg Brekke.
Hundreds of activists are expected to rally in Washington DC on 29-30April , encouraging continued progress in withdrawal of forces from Iraq, humane refugee resettlement policies and reform in interrogation practices.
As in past events organized by Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, education and conversation will be coupled with worship and action, lobbying opportunities for participants on Capitol Hill and possible acts of civil disobedience.
In 2007, more than 200 of the group’s protestors were arrested from the crowd of 3,000 who marched from the Washington National Cathedral to the White House calling for an end to the Iraq war.
Michael Neuroth, policy advocate for international issues at the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries, has played a role in organizing the rally. “We’re supportive of the President’s plan to withdraw troops,” he said.
The group has been encouraged by a more open dialogue on foreign policy decisions under the Obama administration, including the President’s declaration on torture signed during his first days in office.
Yet Neuroth is aware of unresolved issues regarding Iraq that will be spoken on and lobbied for during the event. "On the humanitarian front, there is a need for increased funding for Iraqi reconstruction and expanded opportunities for Iraqi refugees to enter the United States," he said.
On the evening of 29 April, Christian Peace Witness for Iraq will gather thousands of loaves of bread in front of the White House in an act of liturgical public action, calling the nation to repent of its trust in the powers of death and to choose instead the way of life. Event organizers say each loaf will be accompanied by a monetary contribution: the bread will be shared with the hungry in Washington, DC; the financial gift will support the people of Iraq.
Kwame Osei Reed, UCC Potomac Association minister, will participate as a local clergy representative to lead the procession from worship at National City Church to the White House.
Specific legislation goals of this year's gathering are to:
* Support the President’s plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq by 2011 and to speak out for the public referendum in Iraq on the US-Iraq Withdrawal Agreement (The referendum must take place before 31 July 2009).
* Support the President's funding level for Iraqi refugees and economic reconstruction in the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill. Urge Representatives to cosponsor HR 578, the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Security Act. Thia bill addresses the impending humanitarian crisis and potential security breakdown resulting from the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighbouring countries and the growing internally displaced population in Iraq, by increasing directed, accountable assistance to these populations and their host countries. It also facilitates the resettlement of Iraqis at risk.
* Urge Senators to cosponsor S 147, the Lawful Interrogation and Detention Act of 2009, a bill to outlaw the CIA's coercive interrogation programme, require the government to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, end secret detentions, prohibit interrogations of detainees by government contractors and require greater cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Also to encourage similar legislation in the US House of Representatives.
Further event details and registration information can be found at: http://christianpeacewitness.org