La Crosse, Wisconsin. March 25. The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church Said " This evening as this community of faith gathers to pray, our troops are engaged in war with the forces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq".
The President of the United States of America has said that he is committed to liberating the people of Iraq from Saddam's tyrannical regime and to destroying his weapons of mass destruction. These are noble and lofty goals.
" Of course, we shall pray for the safety of our men and women in uniform. But we must not forget to offer our intercessions for the innocent Iraqi people, praying that they are spared by the onslaught. Together we shall offer our prayers that our government will not be seen as a mere aggressor but as a catalyst for change, helping to create a peaceful Middle East. We shall pray that the people of Palestine will finally achieve autonomy within their own homeland and that the children of Abraham -- Jews, Christians and Muslims -- will live in peace and reconciliation. We as the followers of Christ are committed to justice and peace among all people, and to respecting the dignity of every human being".
The Pakistani born Rev Patrick, now on high ranks of Episcopal ministry of USA said " We live in an increasingly complex world. The geo-political environment is intensely dangerous. Political, ethnic and communal differences are increasingly turning into religious crusades. One tragedy of our time is that the fleeting relief following the end of the Cold War era has so rapidly given way to religious persecution on a scale not seen since the Holocaust itself. Vicious intolerance shattered the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Sarajevo when Serbia launched its brutal "ethnic cleansing" against the majority Muslim population of Bosnia in what had been Communist Yugoslavia. For far too long the world stood by and did nothing, much as it did when Jews were systematically victimized in central Europe in the 1930s".
He added that " Even before that, the roots of the Holocaust can be found in the genocide of Christian Armenians by the Muslim Turks early in the twentieth century. Adolph Hitler acknowledged those roots when he asked rhetorically on the eve of his merciless invasion of Poland in 1939"
"Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?"
That Hitler interpreted tacit global complicity from the silence which followed the calamity of 1915, when the Turkish government uprooted some 1.2 million Armenians from their homes and sent them on a death march into the Syrian desert with no food or water. Later, when Hitler's Nazis killed six million Jews and other minorities, they assumed that the world would also look past what was happening in the concentration camps. Similarly, the world has largely ignored the ethnic violence in 1993 which claimed over 150,000 lives in Burundi and the genocide in Rwanda which claimed 800,000 lives in 1994. In Kashmir over the past fifty years over 100,000 Kashmiris, mostly Muslims, have been killed in the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan.
"The world has also mostly stood by while the radical Muslim regime in the Arab north of Sudan engages in ethnic cleansing against its own countrymen in the south. In Sudan 2.5 million people, mostly Christians, have been killed and over four million have become refugees. It is a modern holocaust. Religious persecution has also plagued Buddhists in Tibet as well as Christians in China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Tragically, in the United States on September 11, 2001, we also experienced hate in action, as devastation and destruction came to our cities bringing to our own shores the consequences of misguided religious zealotry".
""Now in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, countless atrocities have been committed against humanity. I have yet to find anyone who would not agree that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and that the people of Iraq need a regime change. The world community has been dealing with this issue for the last twelve years. Saddam Hussein has not co-operated with UN inspectors to prove that he does not own weapons of mass destruction. One result of his intractability is the division of the world into Christian and Muslim factions. The U.S. attack on Iraq has put Christian minorities in Islamic countries at great risk and has initiated prejudice against Muslims among some westerners. The war will only cause further division between the Christian West and the Muslim world. This has put us on a very dangerous path. That is why we must wage reconciliation - to find opportunities to build bridges with other faith communities. We pray that this war will end soon and America will be engaged in helping to rebuild the democratic infrastructure in tomorrow's free Iraq. We support our armed forces and our President but ask him to use every avenue of diplomacy to resolve conflicts in the troubled areas of the world. We are, after all, a nation with the greatest affluence, superior technology and sophisticated armaments. We have the capability to build international coalitions and to lead the world in resolving international conflicts. We can select peace or go to war. Now we have chosen to go to war. We pray that this war will end soon and that the road to peace will begin to be built in the Middle East. However, this road to peace cannot be built without also acknowledging the rights of the Palestinian people. If we sincerely engage to resolve the Iraqi and Palestinian issues, we may help to stem the tide of conflict among the children of Abraham".
"The God we know from the Torah, the Injeel (or Gospel) and the Qur'an is a God of mercy, forgiveness, peace and love. Jesus commands us to"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10: 27.
" Likewise, the Holy Qur'an teaches "Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." Surah Al-Baqarah 2:62
"Islam, Judaism and Christianity also are united in emphasizing worship and prayer as essential elements in faithfulness to God. Tonight, from this house of prayer, we call upon these faith communities, the children of Abraham, to common action for peace, joining with all people of good will to identify those common beliefs and values that can form the foundation of international understanding and enable us to make common cause in promoting international understanding and world peace. We in the United States must assure the people of Iraq that we care about them in their suffering and the loss of their dear ones in this war. Let us pledge to continue asking our government to rebuild Iraq and to help to bring peace to the Middle East. We must thank the men and women of our armed forces who have risked their lives to protect us. We pray for their safe return".
"Last but not least, we must strive for justice and peace among all those who are suffering in our global family of nations and work to restore the dignity of every human being. We raise up our prayers for peace in Iraq and an end to the present conflict. As Henri Nouwen has written, "When we want to make peace we first of all have to move away from the dwelling places of those who hate peace and enter into the house of him who offers us his peace." As peacemakers we come to pray in this house of prayer. We simply must realize Nouwen's words: "Prayer is the beginning and the end, the source and the fruit, the core and the content, the basis and the goal for all peacemaking. I say this without apology, because it allows me to go straight to the heart of the matter, which is that peace is a divine gift, a gift we receive in prayer."
"Peace I leave to you, my own peace I give to you, a peace the world cannot give, this my gift to you" (John 14:27)