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Faiths unite in call for peace

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD -- From different faiths, with different languages and in various ways of prayer, a small group of the faithful gathered last night to pray for a peaceful resolution to the looming war in Iraq.

The mixed congregation at St. George Greek Orthodox Church included Christians and Jews, Muslims and Baha'i, who all came together in a fervent desire to achieve a peace in the escalating conflict. Each contributed to the service in different ways.

The congregation listened to a prayer chanted in Greek. They learned to say "May we bring greetings of peace to you" in Hebrew. They prayed in the reflective silence of the Quakers, and sang songs like "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace."

"The various ways of prayer we have experienced are rich and beautiful," said the Rev. Marc Bergeron, ecumenical officer for the Catholic Diocese of Fall River. "Public prayer always has two audiences: our good God and each other."

After sharing their prayers privately with two strangers in the congregation, people shared them with everyone.

Prayers were said for the wisdom of leaders who chose peace and negotiation over war. Heartfelt prayers were made for everyone who might be affected by such a war: for the children and civilians of Iraq; for the United Nations and the weapons inspectors; for President Bush and for Saddam Hussein; for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces gathering in great numbers near the Iraqi borders; for the families of those men and women.

They also prayed to understand a people a world away whom they have not met, but with whom they are joined together on this Earth. Music and song reverberated with messages of peace.

"Our common ground tonight is prayer," said the Rev. Ellie Reed of the Trinity United Methodist Church in New Bedford. But noting that the obligation of people of faith is more than mere prayer, she said: "Man must find his own path to peace, within himself and with his neighbors."

Imam Abdul Nahmood Al-Jaami said that while the disagreements between faiths "are theoretical, historical and political," he was happy to be among such a group that believe in peace, not war.

"We have gathered here to pray for peace," said the Rev. Bette McClure of the First Congregational Church in Fairhaven. "We are people of different faiths, nationalities and races united in our deep and sincere desire for peace."

In the program was a notice for the 117th annual World Day of Prayer. A service for the World Day of Prayer will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Our Lady of Purgatory Church, 11 Franklin St.

This story appeared on Page A1 of The Standard-Times on March 3, 2003.

©Copyright 2003, The Standard-Times (CT, USA)

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