Religious leaders speak out for peace

BALTIMORE, Md. - 'Our grief is not a cry for war,' and 'Honor them with peace' - referring to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - were among the signs carried by the 20,000 protesters who gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Sept. 29.

Two buses leaving from Baltimore carried 85 people, all of whom were going to protest the proposed bombing of Afghanistan, which they feared would lead to the killing of thousands of innocent civilians and possibly trigger a major U.S. war, and to the racist attacks in this country against Arab-Americans and Moslems.

'We do not need war to heal the pain of the losses at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It will only cause more suffering for innocent people who had nothing to do with what happened, said Renee Washington of East Baltimore, a mother of five, including three sons of military age. 'I believe in peace and love, not war.'

Among the thousands of protesters in Washington were a large contingent of Arab Americans. Speaking from the platform was Amur Jabral, a Palestinian, who stated, 'We are aware that there are millions of people in this country who are opposed to war, but they are keeping it a secret. They are afraid to speak out.'

A New York cab driver, originally from Bangladesh, said that ever since Sept. 11, he had received at least daily threats from passengers in his cab who seemed to blame him for the terrorist attacks.

James Craton, former employee at the World Trade Center and one of the many rescue workers at Ground Zero, said, 'I was at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. We lost hundreds of our people. I am here to say, 'War will not bring the victims of this terrorist attack back.' Bush wants us to take our grief and go to war. Meanwhile the deaths of my fellow workers are not going to stop the corporations from continuing their policy of layoffs and downsizing. We need to take our grief to organize for peace and justice.'

'We ask ourselves why we are under attack,' said Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit. 'We have only to go to Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, Kosovo, Iraq and Vieques. Thousands of women and children have been killed due to U.S. sanctions and bombing. History has taught that violence only begets violence. We are now faced with a choice of either non-violence or the possible end of humanity.'

Rev. Lucius Walker of Pastors for Peace, which organizes caravans of humanitarian aid for Cuba, said he had just returned from that island nation.

'I was asked to say to you that the answer to terrorism, whether in this country or elsewhere in the world, is love and peace, not more terrorism, retaliation and racism,' he said. 'We must be critical of those who are only responding to the actions against our own country. The answer to our pain, anger and sorrow is right here in Washington, D.C. It is right here in corporate America. Let us stay together and fight for peace in the world.'