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Advocacy Days mourners gather at the Capitol
to lament deaths of Americans, Iraqis and others

Washington, D.C., March 14, 2006 -- Through tears, prayers and song, hundreds of people of faith from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Sikh traditions gathered Monday on the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol to pray for peace and justice in Iraq.

Led in prayers from the many religious traditions represented, participants expressed profound sorrow at the loss of Iraqi, American and U.S. Allies' lives and made a commitment to be a healing presence in the world.

"Our spirits are uneasy. We yearn for the bombings to stop, for the rhetoric to end, for people to be able to move freely through the streets, for the silencing of the tears," said Rev. John McCullough, Executive Director for Church World Service (speaking, right), during his devotional reflection at the prayer vigil.

"We long not for the impossible but for the possible," said Rev. McCullough, offering words of hope for peace despite the daily reports of escalating violence and the growing threat of civil war.

One participant, Dr. Rashad Zidan, who is from Iraq and the founder of the Women and Knowledge Society and Souad Al-Jazairy, was overcome with sorrow as McCullough described the pain and suffering of those who have had to grieve the loss of life that has resulted from the war in Iraq.

"A chorus of a thousand families bemoans lives cut short, of birthdays and anniversaries that never again will pass with joyous and festive celebration," said McCullough. "These are not indistinguishable sounds coming from some ancient tower in Babel. They are the language of our common humanity, and of our capacity to truly love and care for and about the other, regardless of race, creed, or origin."

Leanne Clausen, a former Christian Peacemaker who was replaced by Tom Fox whose body was found in Baghdad over the weekend, led the participants in a moment of silence in the Quaker tradition to honor his ministry and service. Fox and three other peacemakers were abducted in November.

Clausen, who ended her service as part of the Christian Peacemakers Teams in 2004 to attend seminary, asked that the approximately 400 people gathered would continue to pray for her colleagues who are still being held captive as well as for the thousands of people detained in U.S. prison camps who are not being treated humanely and who have not been allowed to contact their families or seek legal counsel.

The Interfaith Prayer Vigil, which was sponsored by Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Interfaith Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the National Sikh Gurdwara, was planned in accordance with the fourth annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference, which brought more than 900 Christian activists from across the country to the Washington, D.C. area to explore real solutions and develop strategies and tactics to advocate for building a just global community that nurtures peace, alleviates poverty and the impact of HIV/AIDS, and protects the integrity of God's creation.

Rabbi Scott Sperling, Director of the Union for Reform Judaism's Mid-Atlantic Council and one of the speakers at Monday's prayer vigil, admitted that the war in Iraq is a complex and difficult subject. "We know that we want peace, but we also must recognize that we have widely varied definitions of peace and how to bring it into the world," he said.

But, he went on to say, those gathered today were there to "share our fears, speak our prayers and open our hearts to the hope of peace in Iraq."

Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, associate general secretary for justice and advocacy for the National Council of Churches USA, closed the vigil by challenging participants to use their sphere of influence to impact peace and justice in our nation and the world.

"Do not tire of the struggle for peace, justice and righteousness," she said. "Go back to your local congregations and community organizations, to family members and friends and encourage them to fight for peace and justice," she said.

In addition, Michael Neuroth, coordinator for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and Jennifer Gubitz from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism led participants in a song called, "Blessed are the Peacemakers." Others who shared prayers and participated in the Interfaith Prayer Vigil were: Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, National Council of Churches USA; Bishop Vicken Aykazian, President Elect, National Council of Churches USA; Zuleqa Husain, Muslim Public Affairs Council; Rev. Simon Bautista, Latin American Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Suzie Armstrong, Vice President, The Interfaith Alliance; Meg Joiner, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; Prabhjit Singh, National Sikh Gurdwara; and, Sister Simone Campbell, National Coordinator, NETWORK.

Contact NCC News: Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350,, or Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252,


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