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Peace vigil invokes traditions of faith

Friday, March 21, 2003
By KELLY ADAMS, Columbian staff writer

A quiet call for peace was issued Thursday night by 120 people gathered at First Congregational United Church of Christ.

    About 24 hours after the first shots were fired in the war against Iraq, the Greater Vancouver Interfaith Association hosted a community prayer service. The half-hour event drew on the teachings about peace from several faiths including Christian, American Indian, Jewish, Baha'i and Buddhist.

    "These are interesting and perilous and scary times. I think it's important to bathe these conflicts in God's grace," said the Rev. Ed Evans, pastor of First Congregational.

    "We love our country, O God, but we acknowledge that our good intentions are sometimes infused with self-interest and self-deception. So we pray for those who lead us during these times of darkness and despair and we ask for your grace and wisdom to fill them with a passion of peace," those in attendance said during one of the responsive readings.

    One song, "This is My Song" by Lloyd Stone, also illustrated the conflict between patriotism and opposition to the war: "This is my home, the country where my heart is," the attendees sang. "Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine. But other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine."

    Those gathered also held a thought for the world's leaders. Evans read these words: "Give to all who exercise authority determination to defend the principles of freedom, love and tolerance, strength to protect and safeguard the innocent and clarity of vision to guide the world into justice and peace."

    Shaaban Naim from the Islamic Society of Southwest Washington called for unity with a Muslim prayer: "In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other."

    The Rev. Mark Gallagher from the Michael Servetus Unitarian Universalist Fellowship read a Buddhist prayer for unity: "Now under the loving kindness and care of the Buddha, each believer of religion in the world transcends the differences of religion, race and nationality, discards small differences and unites in oneness to discuss sincerely how to annihilate strife from the earth, how to construct a world without arms, and how to build welfare and peace of mankind, so that never-ending light and happiness can be obtained for the world of the future."

    The event reached its emotional peak when "We Shall Overcome," the anthem of the civil rights movement, was sung. Many wiped tears as they sang, "Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall live in peace some day."

©Copyright 2003, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA, USA)

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