Diverse group of leaders take lead in local anti-war movement

AP, Jan. 15, 2003

PORTLAND – A theologically diverse group of faith leaders is taking the lead in an anti-war movement that has spawned a peace march scheduled for downtown Portland on Saturday.

The group goes beyond Buddhists and Quakers to include Roman Catholic parishes and religious orders, Scientologists, Muslims and broad-based coalitions such as Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

Absent are some evangelical and Jewish leaders who say they can justify an American war against Iraq.

Faith groups make up many of the 100-plus sponsors for the march.

In Oregon, the alliance among faith groups and secular peace activists helps both groups. Fewer than one in three Oregonians regularly attends a place of worship, surveys show, so religious leaders often can’t get attention without joining broader coalitions.

Involvement by religious leaders “inoculates the peace movement against being so easily besmirched and dismissed,” said Tom Hastings, who teaches peace studies at Portland State University.

While Jews are among the organizers, no mainstream Jewish organizations or rabbis publicly back the march. Nor have significant players in Oregon’s evangelical Christian community joined the anti-war chorus.

“The feeling, broadly speaking, among Christians who take the Bible seriously is that we are sacrificing our own men and women for the sake of the oppressed and for greater peace around the world,” said the Rev. Luis Palau, an international evangelist based in Beaverton. “This is a just war.”

Among things the marches will demand is “a just resolution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which bothers the Jewish Federation of Portland and the American Jewish Committee’s Oregon chapter.

“Whoever is going to decide what ‘a just resolution’ is? . . . You know when you see something like that that it’s just not going to be an open forum,” said Emily Gottfried, executive director of the Oregon chapter.

Several Portland rabbis known for speaking out on political issues don’t necessarily oppose war with Iraq. Rabbi Emanuel Rose of Congregation Beth Israel said the Bush administration has yet to prove that Iraq presents a direct threat to the United States, “but I am not in the camp of those who are just plain anti-war.”

Rabbi Joey Wolf of Havurah Shalom said he supports Bush’s plans.

“I don’t normally line up with Republicans at all, but on this particular piece, this is a critical hour,” he said. “Where Iraq is headed is bad news, and I think we need to show some clarity and some strength.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 16, 2003.
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