January 25 – January 25, 2018
A reflection on the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq
Evelyn Hanneman, BPFNA Interim Coordinating Director
It was an awe-filled time.
Beginning with the first conference call last October, the Christian Peace Witness for
When the registrations increased so they were overflowing the Cathedral space of 3200 people, we knew we had to find another place for people coming to worship to be in out of the potentially bad weather. A committee was formed one week before the March 16 Witness. Calling themselves the “Overflowing with Joy” committee, they determined that the video and audio links could be piped into New York Avenue Presbyterian Church which had already opened its doors, an office suite, various meeting rooms, kitchens and now their sanctuary to the Witness.
March 15th was a beautiful day in
March 16th was cold, windy and raining. Flights were cancelled and the storm had dropped large amounts of snow and ice in
The rain turned to sleet and then snow but the crowd gathered outside at 5:30 PM to enter the Cathedral for the 7:00 PM service. Over 3000 filled with Cathedral while another 700 settled into the pews at NYAPC to view the service, four miles away.
As those of us in the procession gathered in the Chapel of Joseph of Aramathea under the sanctuary, Jim Wallis of Sojourners joined us. Concerns were expressed about what to say to people we were asking to walk 4 miles through the snow to the White House. Jim admitted that he also had wondered what to say, so he had called Dan Berrigan, a leader of the religious protests against the
It was with awe that I joined the candlelight procession down the center aisle of the National Cathedral holding a BPFNA sign. Someone had remembered that a service had been held in the Cathedral after 9/11 that called for war on Al Qaida; it seemed that tonight we were rededicating the space to the Prince of Peace. The candles were placed in a group on a table in front of the sanctuary so that the light became our altar.
The service began with Lamentation as we heard read the reflections of a
Sr. Luma, an Iraqi Dominican nun, read the words of a woman in
Celeste Zappala of
The theme for the Peace Witness was “United by the cross to end the war” and Raphael Warnock, pastor of
Rev. Warnock was non-partisan as he criticized both the Democrat-controlled Congress as “too morally inept” to bring a speedy end to the war and also President Bush, with his plan to “surge” America's troop levels in Iraq with more than 20,000 new personnel.
Warnock said: “Mr. Bush, my Christian brother, we do need a surge in troops. We need a surge in the nonviolent army of the Lord. We need a surge in conscience and a surge in activism and a surge in truth-telling.”
Harkening back to Martin Luther King’s speech against the
Calling for justice to be done, Warnock received a standing ovation when he noted that billions of dollars are available to bomb
The third section moved us toward Hope with a reading from the diary of a Christian Peacemaker Team member in Iraq that spoke of feeling hopeless about the situation until meeting a young Iraqi girl who responded to her kiss by giving the CPT member a piece of candy. Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, president of the North American Region of the World Council of Churches, spoke of the experience of her slave forbearers and their continued hope amid the horrors of slavery, calling us to have that hope.
The call to Action was given by Jim Wallis of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. He said:
For all of us here tonight, the war in
By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in
And so we are here tonight, very simply and resolutely, to begin to end the war in
I believe it will take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a mobilization of the faith community to end it - to change the political climate, to change the wind. It will take a revolution of love to end it. Because this endless war in
And to cast out that fear, we must act in faith, in prayer, in love, and in hope - so we might help to heal the fears that keep this war going. Tonight we march not in belligerence, or to attack individuals - even those leaders directly responsible for the war - or to use human suffering for partisan political purposes. Rather, we process to the White House tonight as an act of faith, believing that only faith can save us now.
We recessed out of the Cathedral, picking up the candles from the altar to light our way. The 3000 people in attendance followed us into the snow. The temperature was 32º but the snow stopped as we processed the 4 miles down
Following a stop at
The rest of us went to the left, walking for another 45 minutes so that the White House was encircled in our candlelight. It was an awe-filled sight.
Some people ask what was accomplished by the Peace Witness. For me it was several things. Small seeds were planted for peace in a lot of good soil. Connections were made with the wonderful people who work for peace through other denominations. A vision of a night for peace was caught and brought to fulfillment. A clear statement was made that Christians are ones who follow the Prince of Peace even in the face of a long struggle to bring an end to a horrendous war.
Perhaps Fr. Louis Vitale, a Franciscan priest who has been arrested over 300 times, said it best when I had dinner with him and others Saturday night: “We don’t need more saints, we need prophets!” The Christian Peace Witness for