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Church of the Brethren calls congregations
to pray for peace in the Middle East

Elgin, Ill., August 11, 2006 – As hostilities intensified in the Middle East and terror alerts dominated the news, the Church of the Brethren – a historic peace church and one of the 35 member communions of the National Council of Churches USA – issued a call to its congregations "to pray and act for peace."

"Your church needs to be a part of this," said Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger, who told the church's membership that Brethren offer "a different voice than the rumblings of the war on terror. It is time for the people of the church to offer a light to the world that leads to a just peace for all people.

Noffsinger urged congregations to engage in their own "singular acts" for peace and to participate with other communions in ecumenical programs, such as the NCC's online prayer page, www.seasonofprayer.org and the World Council of Churches' International Day of Prayer for Peace on September 21.

Many of the member communions of the NCC and other religious groups have been speaking out for peace since hostilities broke out between Hezbollah and Israel last month.

Joining in the call for peace prayer and action were Church of the Brethren On Earth Peace co-directors Bob Gross and Barbara Sayler, and Brethren Witness/Washington Office director Phil Jones.

“Our hearts cry out for the loss of life in Lebanon, in Israel, and in Gaza, as the violence there grows and spreads,” said Gross. “When we try to fight violence with violence, we have let ourselves be overcome by evil. Romans 12:21 admonishes us, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

“Some of us have traveled to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, among them many Palestinian Christians,” Gross continued. “We have seen that even in this tragic time they are lifting up the light of peace. Pray for those who are suffering as this war surrounds them, and for those who have been driven from their homes. Pray for those who could choose to stop the war. Pray for guidance for us all. Our only real security comes from God.”

Jones reported from his recent participation in a training orientation for new Brethren Volunteer Service workers. “We painfully, and with great sorrow explored the current foreign policy programs of our nation,” he said. “The extreme number of casualties, loss of life, and human degradation that occurs from the violence of war are so blatantly against the teachings of the one we know as Christ. We struggled with identifying ways that we can boldly give witness to a faithful moral conscience, one that might change and transform the minds and hearts of those who choose to make war. One that might identify, bring justice to, and transform the root of our many conflicts.”

At least a few Brethren have kept candles burning since Sept. 11, 2001, as an enduring witness for peace, Jones recalled, bringing to mind the many ways Brethren have been calling for peace in recent years.

The Brethren Witness/Washington Office continues to encourage Brethren to communicate with elected representatives to support an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and for the end of the war in Iraq. On Monday the office plans to release an Action Alert with a letter from United for Peace and Justice on the war in Lebanon, and the war in Iraq.

Other current peace initiatives to which Brethren are invited:

w A grassroots call to “encircle the world with light,” begun by women at the Yealand Friends Meeting, a local Quaker congregation in England, and its monthly meeting of 10 congregations in North Lancashire. The Friends are one of the three historic peace churches along with the Mennonites and Church of the Brethren. The English initiative was highlighted on a day when the US and English governments cooperated in responding to plans for a terror attack on airplanes flying between the two countries. It calls on people of faith to light a candle every evening from 9-10 p.m. “as a witness to our common humanity, as long as violence rules in the Middle East.” A poster of a lit candle with the invitation, “Let’s encircle the world with light” designed by James Woolgrove of Yealand Meeting is available at www.brethren.org/genbd/EncircleTheWorld.pdf The poster quotes Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

w On Earth Peace has publicized a call for daily prayer from the Mideast Peace Prayer Foundation, which sets aside a few moments each day at 5 p.m. local time for people around the world to pause for silent prayer for peace. For more information go to http://www.mideastpeaceprayer.org/welcome.html

w A “Let Us Talk Fast” led by Christian Palestinian leader Mubarak Awad, is also highlighted by On Earth Peace. Awad is founder of the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence (now the Holy Land Trust), and Nonviolence International in Washington, D.C. The fast began with participation by Lebanese, Israeli, and Palestinian citizens, and organizers expect many others to join the effort in the Middle East and around the world, fasting from 1 to 21 days. The fast calls on all parties to the conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and the US and other international parties, to “talk rather than kill.” Many fasters are expected to donate their meal savings to peace and humanitarian groups. For more go to www.nonviolenceinternational.net

(Based on Church of the Brethren news reports. Photo by Jesse Reid)


Contact NCC News: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228; Rev. Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252.

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