Quaker Group Slates '9/11 Call for Freedom From Fear'

July 7, 2008 - 8:06 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Thousands of people in churches, Quaker meetings and community groups in 20 states across the country will rally on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to ask Congress to "reject the failed policies of the War on Terror" and develop a new approach to global security.

Initiated by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), which describes itself as a "nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest," the "9/11 Call for Freedom From Fear" will enable groups and individuals to mark the occasion by calling for efforts "to build a safer post-9/11 world."

"In the grief and fear that gripped the nation after Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. faced a choice: seek an outlet for immediate vengeance or build the foundations of strong and lasting peace," said Robin Aura Kanegis, campaigns director for the FCNL.

"U.S. leaders chose to answer with retribution and preemptive violence, and the entire nation is now paying dearly for that choice," Kanegis said.

Therefore, "we will be calling on Congress to end the conflict in Iraq, invest in development and diplomacy to build world stability and prevent future conflicts, and stop the erosion of constitutional rights and liberties that threaten the very roots of democracy here at home," she noted.

A number of liberal organizations have endorsed the project, including the National Council of Churches of Christ, Peace Action, the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, Women's Action for New Directions and United for Peace and Justice.

The effort began on Sunday, when groups from Alabama, Oklahoma, California, Indiana, Pennsylvania and more than a dozen other states held prayer services and information sessions to discuss alternative approaches to end what the FCNL calls "global insecurity."

One congregation that met on Sunday was the St. Cronan Parish in St. Louis, Mo., which held a prayer service on the theme of "Freedom From Fear."

Rev. Madonna Kuciejczyk-Kernan's message during the service focused on Isaiah's call to let go of fear, James' call to respect the poor and Jesus' call to embody God's reign through alternatives to war.

"Our parish is ready to equip ourselves with the tools of non-violence," Kuciejczyk-Kernan said, adding that parishioners are also organizing meetings with their elected representatives.

On Monday, participants from these events will join thousands of individuals across the country to meet with or contact their elected officials and call for new national approaches that reject "the politics of fear."

For example, at the First United Church in Oneonta, N.Y., a local coalition will hold a "Freedom From Fear" event Monday featuring members of two military families deeply affected by the war in Iraq.

"We're working to encourage ordinary people to speak out about what they know in their gut is wrong with the country, and then we're going take those concerns to our Congressman and bring hundreds of letters," said event organizer Paddy Lane.

"And we'll go back again, and again, and again," Lane said.

"Today, more violent groups are planning attacks on the U.S. than immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, and curtailments of civil liberties are threatening the very democracy the nation has gone to war to protect," said Kanegis.

"The 'war on terror' isn't working," she added. "We need to learn from the past five years and chart a new course if we hope to ensure the security of the U.S. for the long term."

However, Mark Tooley, a spokesman for the ;conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, whose stated goal is "reforming the church's social and political witness," told Cybercast News Service he considers the effort an "unfortunate" way to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

Speaking of the FCNL, Tooley said that "these are the kinds of political activities they've been organizing for the last 35 or 40 years, dating back at least to the Vietnam War," because the committee has "always been reflexively hostile to U.S. foreign policy and especially to any kind of U.S. military action."

The reason for this hostility, he said, is that pacifists like those on the FCNL began with their personal abhorrence of violence and "in more recent decades have taken the view that it is wrong for anyone at any time or place, including civil governments, to ever resort to violence."

Tooley also noted that the committee's 9/11 project was long on criticism of the war on terror but short on specific policy alternatives.

"Based on their past actions and statements, I suppose they favor international mediation and reliance on the United Nations, as well as general expressions of good will with the hope that our adversaries and enemies would respond likewise," he said.

But "if their advice were followed, it would invite more aggression, further violence and more harm to people and property in our country and other countries, ultimately," Tooley said.

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