Virtual Voices

Christians fast for politics or peace?

Religion

On October 8, an interfaith alliance is holding "a day of prayer and fasting to end the Iraq war." Their mission: to change the meaning of Columbus Day "from one of conquest to community and from violence to reverence." Mark Tooley, a director for the Institute of Religion and Democracy (IRD), said that the mission is political, not spiritual --- "an exploitation of what is supposed to be a spiritual tool."

The fast's sponsors include Quakers, Baptists, Lutherans, Buddhists, Jews, and organizations like the National Council of Churches and the Council on American Islamic Relations. One sponsor - the Shalom Center - said participants could also focus on ending social epidemics of murder and abuse, "healing our media" of its blasé attitude towards violence, and acting against "ecocidal violence."

Tooley said the fast is still about withdrawing troops from Iraq. The Interfaith Fast website says, "This war must end!" Americans must offer "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."

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Tooley objects to church leaders touting a cause that he believes "speaks primarily to their own concerns," a cause he said some of their members wouldn't support. Tooley works with the IRD to defend "traditional Christian beliefs and practices" within the United Methodist church. Interfaith leaders held their press conference in front of a United Methodist church, and several Methodist ministers number among the sponsors.

Tooley said he doesn't object to prayers for peace: "Christians should be praying for peace wherever it is possible, and Christians of course can and do disagree about how to avoid or end wars. … I think most Christians would pray that the war ends in a way that leaves Iraq with a decent, stable government that protects human rights."

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