Newsline Extra for March 20, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“All shall turn from their evil ways and violence” (Jonah 3:9).

Hundreds of people assembled in the afternoon of March 7 in Washington, D.C., marking the fifth year of the war in Iraq with a public demonstration against the war and the US occupation. Thousands of worshipers gathered at noon that Friday for worship services as part of a Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

More than forty religious leaders and faith-based peace activists were arrested in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill late in the afternoon on March 7 during a nonviolent witness to end the war. Brethren Witness/Washington Office director Phil Jones was among those arrested.

The arrests came at the end of a day of worship and prayer. Following noon-time services in 10 different houses of worship across Washington, worshipers processed to Upper Senate Park for an interfaith witness near the US Capitol. Standing in a driving rain, leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Unitarian traditions insisted that people of faith will be relentless in encouraging their political leaders to take bold action for peace.

Multifaith delegations from the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership, the organizing coalition of the afternoon’s events, met with high level staffers from the offices of both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The delegations expressed concern for a clear exit strategy from Iraq and a regional, multilateral effort at development and diplomacy.

The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq gathered around the following convictions: “The war in Iraq must end and diplomacy must replace the threat of war with Iran. We must provide far better support to our returning soldiers. We must commit to the long-term work of development in Iraq. There can be no equivocation in our renunciation of all use of torture. We must commit real resources to justice in our own communities in the US.”

Washington City Church of the Brethren was one of the worship sites for the event. The Brethren Witness/Washington Office hosted this gathering where Daryl Byler, Mennonite Central Committee Middle East region, was the guest speaker. Washington Office director Phil Jones served communion at the service, assisted by Church of the Brethren members from Virginia and Pennsylvania. Some 40 Brethren from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia attended the Friday afternoon event.

Jones was one of the 42 who chose to participate in nonviolent direct action and were arrested while kneeling in prayer. He voiced aloud in prayer portions of the 2004 resolution on the Iraq war made by the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, which reads: “Our deepest prayers of confession, our compassionate prayers of care, and our faithful prayers of hope are the strength we find in the realities of this day. We call upon the administration of our government and the leadership of nations in all places to join us in these prayers of confession, petition, and hope. Scripture continues to offer lessons for today, for all people: ‘Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and violence that is in their hands’ (Jonah 3:7-9).”

Jones also shared his concern for this anniversary event. “How often will we need to bring this message before those who have the political power…to end this violence?” he asked. “Our voice and our action is an indicator to these men and women that the faith community calls for faithful discernment and direct action by its representatives. We call for our Senate and House leaders to struggle with their conscience and their faith and to step forward boldly on behalf of this nation searching for clear ways to act justly, love kindly, and walk humbly. This mandate from God seems a powerful basis for political foreign policy. Five years of this madness of war must end. A new understanding must begin.”

–This report was provided by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

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