Saturday, May 02, 2009

John Deer at Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

Standing in front of the White House, long-time peace activist John Deer reads a letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

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.”

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brothers Frantzich Singing at the White House

A great cloud of witnesses singing in support of 25 faithful followers of the Prince of Peace as they were arrested in front of the White House last night during the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

This was the end of yesterday's sermon. It is an invitation to this week's Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.
Writing in 1962, Thomas Merton said, “the task is to work for the total abolition of war.”
Merton was right then, and he is right now. Indeed, if anything, the task is more urgent now than it was in 1962.
Merton was not naïve. He understood that the task that he named as the abolition of war involved work on multiple levels on multiple issues starting at the level of our own hearts.
He ended his great essay on the roots of war with these words:
“It is absurd to hope for a solid peace based on fictions and illusions! So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men [and women] and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
I have been praying for peace, marching for peace, organizing for peace, working for peace, donating for peace, witnessing for peace, singing for peace, petitioning for peace and every other act for peace I have been able to imagine since I was in high school. I have a passion for peace.
As I read Merton, I am reminded that a passion for peace, like any passion, involves suffering and death. I am further reminded that my work for peace is work for the death of injustice, tyranny and greed in my own heart.
Such heart work is done best in community. That is why I really hope that some of you can join me and hundreds of others this Wednesday evening at 7:00 at National City Christian Church as we worship and witness for peace in our own hearts and in the heart of our nation.
As Martin King said in 1967, some five years into another endless war, “Now let us begin … let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the [children] of God.”
Grace and love can change the world.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

Why witness now? Why go to the White House when the current occupant has pledged to end this war?
Well, to begin with, President Obama has promised an end, but actions speak louder than words and even his words, if put into action, will leave 50,000 American troops in Iraq in 18 months. Christian colleagues in Iraq remind us that real peace and security in Iraq for Iraqis will not be possible until the American occupation ends.
So we go to the White House to press the president not only to live up to his pledge to end the war, but also to end it now.
In addition, Wednesday's worship and action are a Christian peace witness FOR Iraq and for Iraqis. So we will be pressuring the White House Wednesday and lobbying Congress later to support an Iraqi-lead international effort to rebuild Iraq and care for the five million people displaced by the war.
With the economic crisis overshadowing everything (except perhaps swine flu), it is important to remind people that the occupation of Iraq is not over, that Iraqi people continue to suffer and that American lives are still being lost. Perhaps, if nothing else at all, the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq this year is a service of remembrance.