March 19, 2007 marks the fourth anniversary of the start of the War with Iraq. Over 3,000 American soldiers have died. Over 150,000 Iraqi citizens have died; an estimated 54,000 of them have been children. The injuries incurred are innumerable, the monetary costs are incalculable and the trauma inflicted is unfathomable. While the war succeeded in removing Sadaam Hussein from power it has not succeeded in bringing stability, justice, peace or hope to the people of Iraq. It is time for this war to end.

On Friday, March 16 there will be Christian Witness for Peace events around the country. The largest will be in Washington DC. It will include a service of worship in the National Cathedral and procession to the White House.

There will be several Bay Area events, one of them a candle-light service on the steps of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. The Lakeshore Service will begin at 7:30. The community is invited.

The service will include Scriptures lifting up the Christian mandate to seek peace, to be peacemakers. There will be prayers confessing our individual and societal predisposition to resort to violence to solve problems that violence cannot, and will not, solve. There will be prayers mourning all who have died and been injured. There will be prayers asking for the strength and courage to embrace a better way. There will be readings lamenting the fact we in the face of fear we so easily forget the hard lessons of history and so easily demonize those whom we perceive to be the enemy. There will be songs lifting up the hope of justice. The service will not be long but it will be a public way for the church to say:

  1. Like Isaiah, we are called to raise our prophetic voice, saying that security cannot be achieved through military domination of one people over another.
  2. Like Jesus, who healed the sick and reached good news to the poor, we are called to be a pastoral presence in our country. We call on one another to care for soldiers and their families.
  3. Like Paul, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for even for our enemies.
  4. Like the disciple who learned to put away the sword, we are called to treat others as we want to be treated.
  5. Like Mary, who praised God for lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things, we long for a world free from hunger, environmental destruction and injustice. (From Christian Witness for Peace)

Congressperson Barbara Lee, long a leading voice in Congress against this war, has been asked to speak. Members of the Lakeshore congregation will lead the prayers, the songs and the Scripture readings. At the end we will light candles, symbolizing our hope that on this planet the light of human caring will overcome the night of war.

On noon on Saturday, March 24, there will be a march in Oakland beginning at Lakeside Park (near the library) and ending at City Hall with a rally. The main point of this march, which is being called for by Congressperson Lee and City Council Member Jean Quan, is that the money spent fighting in Iraq is money that is taken out of the classrooms, hospitals, affordable-housing developments and Head Start programs of Oakland.

I write this recognizing that not every member of the community thinks that the war in Iraq has been a mistake. To you I simply say it is my leading that if people of faith do not stand against this war then we are simply passing on to the next generations, passing on to our children and grandchildren, our unwarranted trust in war as a means of solving the problems of the world and our inability to differentiate between standing up to evil and believing that we can bomb it out of existence. May God grant us the grace to respect one another while disagreeing on matters that matter.