Peace rally kicks off 2003
Testimonies of peace, songs of hope and words of forgiveness filled the chapel at the Englewood United Methodist Church on Wednesday as the church welcomed some 500 people of different faiths.
Christian, Muslim and Baha'i speakers spoke of peace, mostly between the United States and Middle Eastern countries, kicking off Englewood's 13th annual Day of Prayer for World Peace.
Mario Spalatin and Jean Ranallo spoke about their mission to Croatia, where they toured villages devastated by four years of war, and the Rev. Arthur Lee told of previous wars ignited by religion. Some included the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust.
Such wars, he said, must come to an end.
"Without forgiveness, the past will repeat itself in the future over and over and over," Lee said. "If we choose to forgive, then we truly become sons and daughters of the God who brought us into being."
Samar Jarrah, member of the Peace River Peace Coalition, said she e-mailed friends in Iraq, asking them what they wanted her to tell her fellow Americans.
They responded by saying that it would be their homes being destroyed and their family members getting killed if war breaks out, Jarrah said.
"You are their only hope," Jarrah said. "Their lives are in your hands. Stand up for what is right."
The Rev. Fred Morris, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, introduced the event's main speaker. Morris made headlines when he was kidnapped and tortured by the Brazilian army for 17 days in the 1970s.
He said it was time the American people told their government 'no,' and flooded the White House with calls and faxes denouncing a war with Iraq.
"The most important and worthwhile task is peace," Morris said.
The Rev. Fahed Abu Akel, the event's keynote speaker and moderator of the Presbyterian Church-USA, thanked the Englewood community for putting peace first.
Fahed, who spent part of his childhood in a Palestinian refugee camp before becoming a Christian minister in the U.S., said the U.S. has the ability to control the world by military force or the ability to lead the world in the fights against hunger and AIDS.
Which direction the United States chooses to head will determine much of the world's future, he said.
"The policy of America in the 21st century is do we lead the world with the gun...or do we lead the world through peacekeeping and negotiation," Fahed asked. "America must change its policies."
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©Copyright 2003, Sun-Herald (FL, USA)
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