thousands fast for peace in Iraq
York City, Oct. 10, 2007
Thousands of Americans
crossed the lines of faith traditions to fast from dawn to dusk last
Monday (October 8) to call for an end to the Iraq War.
Prayer and fasting events
were also reported in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, said the Rev. Dr.
Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary at the National
Council of Churches USA (NCC), one of the fast's organizers.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarians, people of
other faiths and people of no faith observed a day of fasting together.
In many communities the breaking of the fast was observed at Islamic
centers with an "iftar" dinner on the "Night of Power," the holiest
night in Ramadan.
Events were posted on the
but many more events were held according to emails received by the
organizing network, Premawardhana said.
"This war must end!" said the religious leaders in their statement
organizing the fast. "We must end the shattering of Iraqi and American
lives by offering American generosity and support – but not control –
for international and nongovernmental efforts to assist Iraqis in making
peace and rebuilding their country, while swiftly and safely bringing
home all American troops."
Breaking the fast at sundown dinners rolled west across the nation in
the different time zones. They began in Washington, D.C., North
Carolina and Pennsylvania to Kansas, Colorado, California and Washington
What may have been a first was a fast that took place in the online
virtual community of Second Life (secondlife.com), organized by the
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Peacemaker Institute.
Through their avatars, participants met for hourly mediation sessions
throughout the day and then broke the fast with a closing ceremony and
virtual snacks. "Since I don't live near any of the real life
celebrations, participating in Second Life gave me the opportunity to be
in community with others while I was fasting" said Ruby Sinreich of FOR.
At an Islamic center in Sterling, Va., just outside the nation's
capital, several Christians and Jews gathered with Muslims to break the
fast. Also present were officials of the U.S. State and Homeland
Security departments and elected officials.
"Perhaps more than ever before religious people in small communities and
large cities throughout the U.S. are gathering right now to break the
fast," the Rev. Dr. Premawardhana told the gathering. "It is now
imperative that we work to expand and deepen those relationships."
Rick Ufford-Chase, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, USA,
spoke of the efforts of Christians to bring an end to the war in Iraq,
including those of Christian Peace Witness, which brought over 3000
religious leaders to Washington on the 4th anniversary of war.
"Christians must own that our Christian president took us to war," he
said. "That was the focus of the gathering in March. Now, working hand
in hand with our interfaith partners we are much stronger."
The leaders of many faith communities invited Americans to join
interfaith events for the common goal of peace which is common to all
major religions in the world.
"American culture, society, and policy are addicted to violence at home
and overseas," said the organizers. "In our time, the hope of a decent
future is endangered by an unnecessary, morally abhorrent, and
disastrous war. Ending this war can become the first step toward a
policy that embodies a deeper, broader sense of generosity and community
at home and in the world."
Among the religious who organized or endorsed the event were: Rabbi
Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center, Philadelphia; Dr. Sayyid M. Sayeed,
Islamic Society of North America, Plainfield, Ill.; Rev. Dr. Shanta
Premawardhana, NCC Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations
and Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC President; Jean Stoken, Pax Christi
Roman Catholic peace ministry; Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, Moderator of
Religions for Peace USA; Jim Winkler, United Methodist Board for Church
and Society; Rick Ufford-Chase, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and
Christian Peace Witness, and Bishop Christopher Epting, The Episcopal
NCC News contact: Dan