Friday, May 01, 2009

“In the name of Jesus, Stop the War!”

From the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship:
Three hundred Christians worship and witness together, twenty arrested in an act of nonviolent direct action in front of the White House, as President Obama held his “100 Days” press conference inside.
As more than three hundred Christians worshipped together at National City Christian Church in Washington on Wednesday night, they heard a rousing call from Tony Campolo to put an end to the war in Iraq. Campolo shared the story of the fourth century Monk Telemachus who was martyred when he entered the Coliseum in Rome during the fights of the gladiators and demanded “In the name of Christ, Stop.” After he was killed, a hush fell over the crowd and the Coliseum slowly emptied. The tradition of Gladiators fighting for sport had come to an end. Campolo suggested that,similarly, Christians who take the Bible seriously must be prepared to take great personal risks as they demand, “In the name of Jesus, stop the war.”
Others were also there to inspire the crowd, who had come from all over the country to worship and witness together on the evening that marked President Obama’s first 100 days in office. Elizabeth MacAlister, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Kathy Kelly, Sr. Diana Ortiz, Noah Baker Merrill and by video presentation, Najlaa Al-Nashi from Direct Aid Iraq all spoke strong words of criticism for the Iraq War, and implored President Obama and the U.S. Congress to bring the war to an end.
There was a light rain falling as the worshippers left the Sanctuary at National City Church and processed to Lafayette Park in front of the White House carrying candles and baskets of bread. There in the park, Rick Ufford-Chase called on all of those assembled, and on our President and Congress, to lead with apology, repentance for our actions, and a commitment to make amends to the people of Iraq for the spiral of violence unleashed by the U.S.’s “pre-emptive strike” in March of 2003. Fr. John Dear read a letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressing his gratitude to Christian Peace Witness for Iraq for their continuing insistence that the war in Iraq must end.
After attempting to present a loaf of bread for President Obama, the group formed a large circle in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, and sang together for over an hour. Eventually, twenty of those standing in the “arrestable space” on the sidewalk in front of the White House were arrested and put into police vans. Eleven of those arrested, including Presbyterian Pastor Tim Simpson and his son Stephen, were released just after midnight. Nine others, including Kathy Kelly, were held over night until they saw a judge the following day.
Presbyterian Pastor Clay Thomas, Associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, FL and a member of the public policy advocacy team for Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, said that the conversations that CPWI supporters had with their legislators the following morning were a significant step forward in advancing CPWI’s effort to end the war. “In fact,” said Thomas, “we were given a 90 minute meeting with representatives from the Obama Administrations National Security Council and the Public Liaison for the religious affairs office.”
“In each of those meetings with government representatives,” said Rick Ufford-Chase, former moderator of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), “CPWI’s message was that “we must see a plan that indicates how we will remove all U.S. military personal and bases from Iraq, support reconstruction of Iraqi communities devastated by the war, resettle five million Iraqis displaced by the violence, and establish a commission of inquiry regarding our nation’s use of torture. Those moves, taken in concert with one another, will send a clear message to the rest of the world that we are truly interested in the things that will make for a just peace and a lasting security for all people.”

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