Monday, July 30, 2007

Interfaith Fast to End the War in Iraq -- October 8th (Revised)

Dear Friends,

Do you remember February 15, 2003? It was a month before the war in Iraq began and people across the world came together in local communities for candlelight vigils for peace. Although, it didn’t stop us from going to war, it was one of the most poignant demonstrations of people power that I had seen in a long time. Many other such community events have taken place both centrally in Washington DC and in local communities. Recently, Christian Peace Witness (a coalition organized by Rick Ufford-Chase) brought together over 3000 people to Washington DC, on the fourth anniversary of the war in March.

On October 8th, we have the opportunity continue this tradition, but do it together with religious communities other than our own. We are calling local communities to come together and participate in an “Interfaith fast,” calling us from “conquest to community; from violence to reverence.” We seek to join with the Muslim community who would already be fasting on the "Night of Power" the holiest day of Ramadan. I am attaching our framing document for your review.

We are working on two ways of expanding this focus:

1. As we fast from food, we will call on all armed forces and militias to “fast” from killing at least for one day, reminding them that Ramadan calls for a fast from violence as well. We are currently seeking the support of international religious leaders to give this call more traction.

2. Considering Oct. 8th a beginning, we will seek to educate people in our religious communities about electing a president and representatives who are committed to ending this war and to peaceful means of resolving conflicts.

Our next steps are the following:

1. Set up a website that has capacity to receive listings of events from local communities and announce them

2. Prepare and publish material that teaches people about the spiritual discipline of fasting and
provides strategies for getting together with people in other religious communities.

3. Hold a press conference with top religious leaders towards the end of August in Capitol Hill and concurrently run ads in New York Times and other newspapers.

4. Organize local religious communities.

You are our key contact in the local religious communities. Without your support and engagement this event will fall flat. Therefore I want to ask two things from you at this time.

1. Sign the attached document, both on your own behalf and for your organization (If necessary do it first on your behalf and organization later.) Reply to this email with your endorsement and we will include you in the list of signers. (The first page of a growing list of signers is included in the document.)

2. Agree to help organize religious communities in your network for Oct 8th.

I want to convene a conference call on Wednesday, August 8th at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern) of those who agree to organize local communities to both work together and check in with our progress. Please let me know if you would agree to participate. We will also do so in the first weeks of September and October.

Please write or call me if you have questions. My contact information is below.

Thank you for your participation in this important work. Please write me if you have questions:

The Framing Document and a partial (and growing list) of signers is below.


We call on all Americans to join in fasting from dawn to dusk on Monday, October 8, to call for an end to the Iraq War. On this day, people of faith in local communities across our nation will act as catalysts to transform the meaning of the day from one of conquest to community and from violence to reverence.


This war must end!

We must end the shattering of Iraqi and American lives by offering American generosity and support – but not control – for international and nongovernmental efforts to assist Iraqis in making peace and rebuilding their country, while swiftly and safely bringing home all American troops.

Just as Isaiah called the People Israel to hear the Yom Kippur fast as God's call to feed the hungry, just as Jesus fasted in the wilderness, just as Christians through Lenten fasting and Muslims through Ramadan fasting have focused on spiritual transformation, just as Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and others drew on fasting to change the course of history, so we call on all our communities of faith to draw now on fasting as a path toward inner spiritual transformation and outward social transformation.

American culture, society, and policy are addicted to violence at home and overseas. In our time, the hope of a decent future is endangered by an unnecessary, morally abhorrent, and disastrous war. Ending this war can become the first step toward a policy that embodies a deeper, broader sense of generosity and community at home and in the world.


Millions of faithful Americans in local communities across the nation who believe in changing the course of our nation’s priorities from conquest to community and from violence to reverence.

This fall, in an unusual convergence, many of our faith traditions share a season of sacred self-assessment and self-transformation. This holy season includes the month of Ramadan and the Night of Power (Islam); the High Holy Days and Sukkot (Judaism); the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi and Worldwide Communion Sunday (Christianity) and Pavarana / Sangha Day (Buddhism).

Since each of our traditions recognizes the power of fasting as a spiritual discipline, we call on all people of faith to join in a fast from dawn to dusk on Monday, October 8.



During the months of August and September, we will prepare and publicize educational material that religious leaders can use to prepare their congregations to
1. appropriately relate with religious communities other than their own, and
2. learn the spiritual discipline of fasting as a transformational exercise, making clear the distinction between transformational fasting and the abusive use of fasting for the sake of a false sense of beauty and body-image

We invite individuals or small groups to begin the discipline by fasting one day a week, in the months prior to October 8.

Sundown, Sunday, October 7: Gather in intentionally interfaith events across the United States to pray and to break bread together.

On Monday, October 8th

Have a simple meal before dawn, committing to fast throughout the day as a sign of your commitment to move our core values from conquest to community and from violence to reverence.

While fasting, many of us in cities as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and in local communities across the United States will take part in public vigils, inviting community leaders and elected officials and candidates for the presidency to join us as we commit to take immediate action to end the war. In Washington DC, religious leaders will gather to fast together and engage in a public action to draw attention to the nation-wide events that will take place that day.

At sunset: We will eat together once again to break bread in public places as a sign of our commitment to work together for peace and an end to violence. This shared meal will be a sign of our covenant with one another – as individuals and as communities - to stand against the war in Iraq, and to work with one another to stand against violence in our communities and around the world. (Communities should be aware that for Muslims, later in the evening there will be large-scale gatherings for the Night of Power, commemorating the first revelation of the Quran. Shared break-fast meals should be scheduled so as to take account of these gatherings.)

Post Events -- A Season of Commitment:

As a practice of our covenant, we encourage local communities to continue in regular fasting, praying and holding vigils for peace and to take specific actions through the election cycle to stand together against the war in Iraq and against all of the ways in which violence is destroying our communities.

We encourage participants to continue to reach out to elected officials and candidates for congress and the presidency, inviting them to fast with us, break bread with us, pray with us, vigil with us, and publicly express their commitment to end this war.

We encourage those who live in states in which primary elections are held to use that opportunity to engage with the presidential candidates in their public appearances about their commitment to end the war

The Invitation:

We, religious leaders from several traditions, invite you to join with millions of other Americans by organizing joint interfaith events in your local community on October 7 and 8th, for the breaking of bread, fasting, and breaking our fast together as we covenant together to live out the deepest calling in each of our traditions – the desire for justice and for peace for all people. We offer these suggestions to communities that desire to deepen their witness:

Following the gathering on Oct 7th evening, plan events such as Teach-Ins that may extend to all night events to pray, study nonviolence in our different faith traditions, study sacred texts together, and witness to our opposition to war and violence.

Extend the fast to twenty-four hours – beginning with our interfaith meal together on Sunday evening, or for Christians, beginning on Sunday morning with the celebration of World Communion.

Gather on Monday morning, October 8th, for an inspirational public event that will both highlight the issues and provide motivation as we begin the fast.

Broaden our witness to insist that we stand against all use of torture, as well as to highlight our grave concerns about the growing violence on the streets of our cities and in mass shootings across the country, and about the way in which the media’s obsession with grotesque acts of violence undercuts the most fundamental values of our faith.

Partial List of Signatories

Rev. Robert Edgar General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Rev. Michael E. Livingston, President, National Council of Churches USA
Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches
Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, Minister for Ecumenical Relations and Mission Partnerships, Alliance of Baptists
Nihad Awad, Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations
Council on American Islamic Relations
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the Shalom Center
The Shalom Center
Mark C. Johnson, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Fellowship of Reconciliation
The Fellowship of Reconciliation
Kathy Partridge, Executive Director, Interfaith Funders
Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Medical Mission Sisters' Alliance for Justice
Herman Harmelink III, Ecumenical Officer, International Council of Community Churches
Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, Executive Director, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Rev. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Church
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D., Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, Seattle, WA
Fr John Oliver, Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII)
Roberta Wall, Ordained member of the Buddhist Order of Interbeing, Ordained by Thich Nhat hanh
Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, Pastor, West-Park Presbyterian Church, New York City
Virginia Gray Henry, Director, Fons Vitae Publishing and DistributionRabbi Levi Meier, PhD
David L. Hoffman, Coordinator, Humanity Check interfaith peace and reconciliation projectEcumenical Peace Institute/Clergy and Laity Concerned
Parvez Ahmed, Council on American Islamic Relations
The Reverend Dwala J. Ferrell, Executive Director, Petersburg Urban Ministries, United Methodist Church
Jim Rice, Editor, Sojourners magazine
Duane Shank, Senior Policy Advisor, Sojourners/Call to Renewal
Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Chair, Rabbis for Human Rights/ North America
Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Hebrew Union College
Rev Dr Joan Brown Campbell, Chautauqua Institution
Rabbi Phyllis Berman,
Terence Cozad Taylor, Interfaith Paths to Peace
Rev. Jamie Hamilton, Exeter Academy
Rabbi Howard A. Cohen, American Hebrew Academy
Ahmed Bedier, Executive Director, CAIR Tampa


At 10:19 AM, Blogger Mary said...

Thank you for working to put this together. My husband, and father to our four beautiful children, just arrived in Kuwait today for his second 15 month deployment to Iraq. They will arrive in Iraq in about 2 weeks or so. I was considering fasting already, and I will fast once a week until this war ends. God bless you.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous IMS said...


To kidnap and export a chap
To someplace else, for torture,
Though it were on or off the map
Where it can be a scorcher,

Defies the Gospel message, as
A question plainly asked,
But whom would Jesus torture, has
Hypocrisy unmasked.

I strive to be a Christian--yet
Have prayed to God in heaven
That this whole lousy crew he let
Not off the hook, but even

"Render" them to the deepest pit
Where burning night and day
So they may linger on the spit
As flames upon them play.

Posing as Christians, yet they went
Against the utter spirit,
Breaking too laws of government
Forsaking need to clear it.

So they have doubly sinned: against
Both Christ, and our forebears
As by enlightenment commenced
A system for the years,

Whereby religion, held in check
Might yet be practiced free,
Yet never govern, as to test

Yet now the Christian Club exclusive
Prohibits all divergent
Viewpoint, excessively abusive
When life is not so urgent:

So let the terrorists destroy one,
Ought one have any fear?
As much as crucified no coy one
Did Christ make meaning clear.


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