War! The church prays for peace

The churches are doing what they do best: praying. They are taking the matter of the United States squaring off in combat against Iraq to the Lord in prayer. It’s a thin line as to whether or not the war will take place. Thousands of troops are in a state of readiness overseas and are on high alert, while thousands more wait to be called to active duty.

While President Bush seems adamant that the war is close at hand, some members of the Caribbean clergy have voiced their concern at the imminent war. It’s a concern that has not been addressed wholly by the church as an institution, but rather by individual churches as some hold prayer vigils, prayer mass, and send letters of protest.

“The president is a Methodist, and the teachings of the Methodists are that of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,” declared Rev. Marjorie Nunes, of the Summerfield United Methodist Church, which has branches in Brooklyn and Connecticut.

“Saddam Hussein is evil and has done wrong, evil things, but we have to exhaust every peaceful avenue based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. We have to look for the greater good as free country and look at not inflicting pain on those people,” Rev. Nunes said passionately.

One of the Beatitudes declared “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God.” As a Child of God, the Connecticut Methodist preacher used the line to explain that “we shouldn’t be going to war to find peace.”

She questioned whether there would be a proliferation of other wars. “Why is the president so taken up with Saddam? After Saddam are we going to go to war with Korea, China or Pakistan? What’s the ultimate goal here?” she asked.

“The world seems to be standing at attention as all ears listen for the call of whether there will be a sound of war or a sound of peace,” says Bishop Dr. Cecil Riley, chairman of the Caribbean American Clergy Coalition.

Riley, who is also pastor of the Freedom Hall Church of God in Brooklyn, feels that “cool heads should prevail and consider the many lives that will be wasted if war is declared.”

Is this the end of time? Revelations tells us that there will be wars and rumors of war. Riley says that although the Bible speaks about this, and it’s often times reflected on by students of the Bible, he is convinced that the best way for all is to “negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.”

Bishop Riley begged, “let us do whatever is in our power to avoid war, especially at a time when we are impressing upon our young people the importance of conflict resolution.”

Pastor of the First Presbyterian Russell Sage Memorial Church of Far Rockaway, Dr. Benjamin J. Patterson is “strongly opposed to an invasion of Iraq by the United States of America. Such an invasion requires ordering citizens to kill and be killed in the name of the entire nation, in our names and yours.”

One of his concerns is the cost of the war, for which taxpayers would be heavily burdened—to the tune of well over $100 billion.

Dr. Patterson recalls the recent commemoration of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Four Black churches, four Jewish organizations, and 20 synagogues, including Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist congregations participated in a recent event held at Temple Israel of Lawrence in commemoration of Dr. King’s birthday. We noted that Dr. King, opposed the war in Vietnam and I strongly believe that he would have protested a war in Iraq. Everything the civil rights leader sought to achieve was to be brought about by non-violent means.

“If a war were to go on for months, and Saddam eludes capture, then the cost to the American economy would no doubt be heavy and would thereby affect not only the faith communities, but the business sector as well.”

Psalm 23—Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me. “Let us pray for the church and world in the midst of troubled times and heed the calls to help and support in the weeks and months ahead,” Dr. Patterson told the Weekly Gleaner.

The Rev. Calvin McIntyre of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Bronx says he offers prayers every Sunday asking for divine intervention. While the church as a body has not reacted collectively, the members been have in constant prayer.

“I fervently believe that we should give the inspectors more time. A war is not going to prove much at this time, but it seems there is some underlying actors that we don’t know about.”

Rev. Allister Rawlins, of the St. George’s Church in Long Island, in his Sunday workshop, touched on the subject when he used Jeremiah 23. “We are deluded by our military might into thinking that it will bring salvation,” he said on Monday when the Weekly Gleaner called him.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that the issue now is not how much more time the UN inspectors need to search in the dark, it is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on to the lights and come clean.

Powell said, “Iraq’s time for choosing peaceful disarmament is fast coming to an end.”

At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland earlier this week, Powell declared that time was running out for Saddam Hussein. “We will not shrink from war, we continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing,” he told reporters.

The polls have consistently shown that the public does not support President Bush’s economic policies. The polls have also shown that he has not convinced the general public that there is a case to invade Iraq. The last political standing some time last year showed the president with an 80 percent approval rating, which has been eroding steadily.

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