As the nation enters the fourth year of the Iraqi conflict, People of Faith for Peace, a new interfaith organization dedicated to proactive peacemaking, is launching a month-long series of activities on March 1.
The Oregon Congressional delegation will be asked to start co-sponsoring or endorsing legislation that will bring the troops home soon, redirect federal monies for domestic needs and recast national security and foreign policies that adhere to the democratic principals of this country and the U.S. Constitution.
Peace leaders from the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths held a news conference Wednesday, which was Ash Wednesday, marking the first day of the Lenten season in the Christian tradition. Their statements repeated declarations made last week from the World Assembly of 350 church bodies, including 34 U.S. denominations, calling for an end to war.
Leaders with the People of Faith for Peace also discussed the results of recent conversations with members of the Oregon delegation or their staff regarding peace-related legislation and shared a list of events they are endorsing. The events include a peace rally and concert on March 19 in downtown Portland.
While there are various ministerial and prayer groups, ecumenical and interfaith councils in the greater Portland area, not one is dedicated to peacemaking, said RCA Moore, convener of People of Faith for Peace.
"We started meeting and talking about this and thus emerged People of Faith for Peace, which is composed of clergy and laity from different religious groups, communities and denominations in the Portland Metro area … to raise the prominence of religious voices for peace."
Specific activities organized by People of Faith for Peace include: peace advocacy with elected officials and policy makers; educational tools and materials; source documents from all faiths that affirm peacemaking; training for peace and nonviolence as a way of life; collation of peace songs and music; and networks of peacemaking congregations and communities of faith.
People of Faith for Peace also endorses and supports peace-related activities and actions scheduled in Portland by various church and secular groups, such as Passport to Peace, a monthly interfaith prayer gathering, and the March calendar of lectures by religious leaders like the Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the New York-based National Council of Church of Christ and Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Tikkum community.
Among those involved with People of Faith for Peace and who spoke at the news conference are:
• The Rev. Mark Knutson, senior pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church, past president of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
• RCA Moore, convener of the People of Faith for Peace. Moore served in the Korean War with the U.S. Marine Corps and worked in war planning and analysis with the Rand Corp. and System Development Corp. at Strategic Air Command headquarters. He is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister.
• Shariar Ahmed, Bilal Mosque, Beaverton, is one of the interfaith leaders and spokespersons for the greater Muslim community in the Portland Metro area.
• The Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, senior pastor, Ainsworth United Church of Christ, who leads a multiracial, multicultural congregation.
• The Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes Jr., Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, CME Oregon-Washington presiding elder. The CME is one of the nation's historic African American denominations.
• The Rev. Charles Lienert, St. Andrew Catholic Church.
• Rabbi Aryeh Hirshfield, P'Nai Or (Faces of Light), leads the Jewish Renewal Congregation in Portland.
• Geraldine Helen Foote, coordinator of People of Faith for Peace Soldiers Project and co-founder of St. Luke Lutheran's Peace and Justice Group, is a poet, artist and teacher and creator of Peace Leaves — gift poems letter-pressed onto leaf-shaped fine arts papers that look like little green soldiers.
• Curt Bell, legislative coordinator for People of Faith for Peace, monitors congressional bills relating to peace and organizes meetings between religious leaders and congressional representatives. Curt is a member of the First Unitarian Church and a scientist.
• Morris "Mo" McClellan, convener of the Peace and Justice Singers, is a longtime folk songwriter, singer and leader of Mo Mack and Friends. He is collating a book of peace songs and music as a way of promoting the urgency for peace; and organizing singers from different churches to perform in different venues. His group will kick off the March 19 rally in downtown Portland.
For further information about the organization, check the Web site www.poffpeace.org.