New York City, Oct. 10, 2007--Thousands of Americans crossed the lines of faith traditions to fast from dawn to dusk last Monday (October 8) to call for an end to the Iraq War. Prayer and fasting events were also reported in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, said the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary at the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), one of the fast's organizers.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarians, people of other faiths and people of no faith observed a day of fasting together. In many communities the breaking of the fast was observed at Islamic centers with an "iftar" dinner on the "Night of Power," the holiest night in Ramadan. Events were posted on the website www.interfaithfast.org but many more events were held according to emails received by the organizing network, Premawardhana said.
"This war must end!" said the religious leaders in their statement organizing the fast. "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."
Breaking the fast at sundown dinners rolled west across the nation in the different time zones. They began in Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Pennsylvania to Kansas, Colorado, California and Washington State.
What may have been a first was a fast that took place in the online virtual community of Second Life (secondlife.com), organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Peacemaker Institute. Through their avatars, participants met for hourly mediation sessions throughout the day and then broke the fast with a closing ceremony and virtual snacks. "Since I don't live near any of the real life celebrations, participating in Second Life gave me the opportunity to be in community with others while I was fasting" said Ruby Sinreich of FOR.
At an Islamic center in Sterling, Va., just outside the nation's capital, several Christians and Jews gathered with Muslims to break the fast. Also present were officials of the U.S. State and Homeland Security departments and elected officials.
"Perhaps more than ever before religious people in small communities and large cities throughout the U.S. are gathering right now to break the fast," the Rev. Dr. Premawardhana told the gathering. "It is now imperative that we work to expand and deepen those relationships."
Rick Ufford Chase, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, USA, spoke of the efforts of Christians to bring an end to the war in Iraq, including those of Christian Peace Witness, which brought over 3000 religious leaders to Washington on the 4th anniversary of war.
"Christians must own that our Christian president took us to war," he said. "That was the focus of the gathering in March. Now, working hand in hand with our interfaith partners we are much stronger."
The leaders of many faith communities invited Americans to join interfaith events for the common goal of peace which is common to all major religions in the world.
"American culture, society, and policy are addicted to violence at home and overseas," said the organizers. "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."
Among the religious who organized or endorsed the event were: Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center, Philadelphia; Dr. Sayyid M. Sayeed, Islamic Society of North America, Plainfield, Ill.; Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, NCC Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations and Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC President; Jean Stoken, Pax Christi Roman Catholic peace ministry; Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, Moderator of Religions for Peace USA; Jim Winkler, United Methodist Board for Church and Society; Rick Ufford-Chase, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Christian Peace Witness, and Bishop Christopher Epting, The Episcopal Church.
The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These member communions represent 45 million faithful Christians in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org, or Philip Jenks, 212.870.2228.