Antiwar Sermons Infuse King Services. (News)

Article excerpt

Pleas and protests against war, issued again by the pope and by demonstrations in U.S. cities, punctuated some Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observances in mid-January--and appropriately so, said speakers who echoed a similar stance by the late civil rights leader during the Vietnam War.

At an ecumenical service at Washington's National Cathedral on January 20, a service that followed two days of protests against U.S. threats to invade Iraq, religious leaders took turns reading words against war that King preached at the cathedral days before his assassination in 1968. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, urged the audience of about 3,200 to "hear how prophetic these words are for today."

Jim Wallis, convener of Call to Renewal, urged President Bush to create a "faith-based initiative" that would disarm weapons of mass destruction through means other than war. "Today we pray to God and plead with our national leaders to avoid the destructiveness of war and find a better way to resolve the very real threats involved in this conflict with Iraq," he said. "We believe that it is possible, and we believe we can still stop this war before it starts."

After the cathedral service, many went to a candlelight vigil at the White House. John Chane, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, joined Edgar and Wallis in leading the procession. Religious organizations also were involved in protests earlier in the weekend, including one that brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to Washington on January 18.

"The massive turnout at this rally proves that Americans won't tolerate politicians waging unjust wars in their name," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation and cochair of the January 18 event. Earlier, the American Muslim Political Coordination Council urged Saddam Hussein to resign as Iraqi president in order to allow internationally supervised elections and "to clear the image of Islam, a religion incompatible with dictatorships. …