Church of the Brethren Newsline
Oct. 6, 2009
On Earth Peace, the peace education, action and witness agency of the Church of the Brethren, organized 128 Church of the Brethren congregations and other groups in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Nigeria to participate in the International Day of Prayer for Peace on or around Sept. 21.
Many churches prayed about local economic conditions, immigration issues, or religious tolerance, while others prayed for relief from local violence involving gangs or guns. Still others prayed for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some held prayer walks, asking God to help them see their neighborhoods in new ways. Others planted peace poles, which expressed blessings of peace in several languages. Still others held concerts and theater presentations. Everywhere people prayed for God’s presence in their lives and in their communities.
Vigils in at least two cities where local violence was the prayer concern have contributed to positive community change. In Rockford, Ill., Samuel Sarpiya, the pastor of Rockford Community Church (Church of the Brethren) and fellow clergy had been engaged in a listening project since April with many communities within Rockford. They were planning a Sept. 21 vigil around the theme of better education for youth. All of that changed on Aug. 24, when two police officers shot and killed an unarmed black man at a church childcare center. The clergy found themselves in a tense situation with potential for further violence. The focus of their vigil suddenly needed to also address the more immediate issue and its aftermath. The clergy provided prayer leadership for the city of Rockford’s observance of the International Day of Peace, which was a four-hour community gathering about both educational issues and how to move forward in the immediate crisis.
Through Sarpiya’s leadership, a group of civic, business, and religious leaders in Rockford have recently asked On Earth Peace to come alongside the situation. In the coming weeks, On Earth Peace will provide both organizing support and training in nonviolent community leadership for religious, business, and civic leaders who are addressing the unrest in the city.
In Philadelphia, Pa., an On Earth Peace vigil for the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sept. 21 sponsored by a multi-faith action group “Heeding God’s Call” capped nine months of weekly rallies in front of Colosimo’s Gun Center, where guns purchased through illegal straw buyers were often used in criminal activities in the region. On Sept. 22, federal charges were filed against the business for making false statements to the authorities and for not keeping proper records of gun sales. On Sept. 29, the business owner pleaded guilty and on Sept. 30 the store closed.
The International Day of Prayer for Peace was first proposed in 2004 during a meeting between World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia and then-United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan as one of the initiatives of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence. It is celebrated annually on Sept. 21, the UN International Day of Peace.
On Earth Peace is an agency rooted in the Church of the Brethren, dedicated to developing peace leadership in every generation. For more information contact Mimi Copp, Co-coordinator for the International Day of Prayer for Peace Campaign of On Earth Peace, at 215-474-1195.
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