On a day of terror alerts and increasing violence in the Middle East, Church of the Brethren leaders are joining in a call to congregations to pray and act for peace, including general secretary Stan Noffsinger of the General Board, On Earth Peace co-directors Bob Gross and Barbara Sayler, and Brethren Witness/Washington Office director Phil Jones.
Several options for prayer and activities for peace are listed below, in which Brethren are invited to join in with ecumenical partners, the historic peace churches, and other Christians and people of faith around the world.
“Your church needs to be a part of this,” said Noffsinger, characterizing activities as simple as a prayer, or the lighting of a candle, as “singular acts” that can build peace. The church offers “a different voice than the rumblings of the war on terror,” he said. “It is time for the people of the church to offer a light to the world that leads to a just peace for all people.”
“Our hearts cry out for the loss of life in Lebanon, in Israel, and in Gaza, as the violence there grows and spreads,” said Gross. “When we try to fight violence with violence, we have let ourselves be overcome by evil. Romans 12:21 admonishes us, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’
“Some of us have traveled to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, among them many Palestinian Christians,” Gross continued. “We have seen that even in this tragic time they are lifting up the light of peace. Pray for those who are suffering as this war surrounds them, and for those who have been driven from their homes. Pray for those who could choose to stop the war. Pray for guidance for us all. Our only real security comes from God.”
Jones reported from his recent participation in a training orientation for new Brethren Volunteer Service workers. “We painfully, and with great sorrow explored the current foreign policy programs of our nation,” he said. “The extreme number of casualties, loss of life, and human degradation that occurs from the violence of war are so blatantly against the teachings of the one we know as Christ. We struggled with identifying ways that we can boldly give witness to a faithful moral conscience, one that might change and transform the minds and hearts of those who choose to make war. One that might identify, bring justice to, and transform the root of our many conflicts.”
At least a few Brethren have kept candles burning since Sept. 11, 2001, as an enduring witness for peace, Jones recalled, bringing to mind the many ways Brethren have been calling for peace in recent years.
The Brethren Witness/Washington Office continues to encourage Brethren to communicate with elected representatives to support an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and for the end of the war in Iraq. On Monday the office plans to release an Action Alert with a letter from United for Peace and Justice on the war in Lebanon, and the war in Iraq.
Other current peace initiatives to which Brethren are invited:
A grassroots call to “encircle the world with light,” begun by women at the Yealand Friends Meeting, a local Quaker congregation in England, and its monthly meeting of 10 congregations in North Lancashire. The Friends are one of the three historic peace churches along with the Mennonites and Church of the Brethren. The English initiative was highlighted on a day when the US and English governments cooperated in responding to plans for a terror attack on airplanes flying between the two countries. It calls on people of faith to light a candle every evening from 9-10 p.m. “as a witness to our common humanity, as long as violence rules in the Middle East.” A poster of a lit candle with the invitation, “Let’s encircle the world with light” designed by James Woolgrove of Yealand Meeting is available at www.brethren.org/genbd/EncircleTheWorld.pdf The poster quotes Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- “A Season of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East” from the National Council of Churches and Religions for Peace-USA requests congregations to pray for peace in the Middle East and to join with their communities in activities that witness for peace. For resources from a variety of religious traditions go to http://www.seasonofprayer.org/ Find the Christian prayer resources by clicking on “Christian” in the left-hand column of the web page.
- An International Day of Prayer for Peace on Thursday, Sept. 21, part of the Decade to Overcome Violence program of the World Council of Churches. “Between now and then we invite every Church of the Brethren into thoughtful reflection of what it means to be a people following the Prince of Peace,” Noffsinger said. For more information go to http://overcomingviolence.org/en/about-the-dov/international-day-of-prayer-for-peace.html
- On Earth Peace has publicized a call for daily prayer from the Mideast Peace Prayer Foundation, which sets aside a few moments each day at 5 p.m. local time for people around the world to pause for silent prayer for peace. For more information go to http://www.mideastpeaceprayer.org/welcome.html
- A “Let Us Talk Fast” led by Christian Palestinian leader Mubarak Awad, is also highlighted by On Earth Peace. Awad is founder of the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence (now the Holy Land Trust), and Nonviolence International in Washington, D.C. The fast began with participation by Lebanese, Israeli, and Palestinian citizens, and organizers expect many others to join the effort in the Middle East and around the world, fasting from 1 to 21 days. The fast calls on all parties to the conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and the US and other international parties, to “talk rather than kill.” Many fasters are expected to donate their meal savings to peace and humanitarian groups. For more go to http://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/