Aid, prayers, vigils in wake of war

By on May 1, 2003

Churches around the world held prayer vigils, clergy and lay people marched in anti-war demonstrations and the Canadian Anglican primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, asked for prayers “for all who are in harm’s way” as war broke out in Iraq in late March. Two days after American and British forces invaded Iraq on a mission to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein, Archbishop Peers, released a statement noting that the action took place “in the face of widespread opposition from other nations … and against the overwhelming consensus of Christian churches and other faith communities.” Archbishop Peers also asked for prayers “for all who worked to avert this tragic moment, that their witness and work for peace may continue.” (His full statement may be found on the Web at www.anglican.ca.) The Canadian church’s Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, meanwhile, has sent an initial contribution of $20,000 for relief in Iraq to Action by Churches Together, a coalition that responds to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. In Great Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote to Anglican bishops worldwide, asking for prayers that “the military action now being undertaken may help to bring about a more stable future for the whole (Middle East) region, with justice for all.” He also wrote to British military chaplains serving in the Persian Gulf, telling them, “You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places.” The Church of England sent clergy an updated version of a booklet called Pastoral Care of War Casualties and Next of Kin, first developed for the 1991 Gulf War by the Archbishops” Council, reported the Church Times newspaper. Meanwhile, a senior Anglican bishop, Peter Forster, broke ranks with most of his colleagues and with the Archbishop of Canterbury to voice support for the U.S.-led military action in Iraq. Bishop Forster, bishop of Chester in western England, described the military action as “both morally and legally justifiable.” On March 22, Muslims and Christians in Leeds and North Yorkshire, England, joined in prayers for peace at Ripon Cathedral. About 35 Muslims laid down prayer mats and performed midday prayers in the south aisle of the cathedral, then joined the Christians in prayers for peace at the cathedral?s shrine for justice and peace. In Canada, Kairos, a coalition of churches and social justice organizations, called on people of faith to continue demonstrations and vigils against the war. An anti-war statement organized by Kairos and others collected more than 30,000 signatures. The Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu Al-Assal, was one of 20 signatories to a statement from the Middle East Council of Churches, pledging to continue efforts to limit the expansion of the war and calling for international aid to help victims in Iraq. According to Episcopal News Service, more than 6,500 prayer vigils were held around the globe on Sunday, March 16, three days before the war started. Among them was Washington?s National Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and the Episcopal Church Center in Chicago. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, in a joint statement with the Muslim Council of Britain, said resorting to war reflected the ?collective failure? of both faith communities.

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