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News ::
Interfaith Walk for Peace with Iraq Passes Through Boston (english)
08 Sep 2002
An interfaith peace walk, seeking to prevent war with Iraq, that has been traveling across Massachusetts, passed through Boston on September 6. The group wants not only to prevent an escalation of the on-going bombing of Iraq, but to end the sanctions that have destroyed Iraq’s economy and killed hundreds of thousands of people, and to end the Bush administration’s ever expanding “war on terror”.
Interfaith Walk for Peace with Iraq Passes Through Boston
by Matthew Williams

09/06/02; Boston, MA--An interfaith peace walk, seeking to prevent war with Iraq, that has been traveling across Massachusetts since August 25 as part of a 17-day journey, passed through Boston today. They started at the Franklin Park Zoo at 8:00 am; I joined them at 9:45 at Copley Square, when they had about 35 people; by the time they held their closing rally of the day at 12:30 in front of the JFK Building, their numbers had grown to twice that. The group wants not only to prevent an escalation of the on-going bombing of Iraq, but to end the sanctions that have destroyed Iraq’s economy and killed hundreds of thousands of people, and to end the Bush administration’s ever expanding “war on terror”.

Walkers held up signs and banner such as “Heal Our Humanity--Prevent War” and “Oil and Blood Don’t Mix--Wage Peace”. One man held up a sign with a photo of a baby on it and the words, “This is my grandson, Joey. Should his father have to kill or die for a tankful of gasoline?” Leaders of both the European Union and the Arab League, as well as the exiled leader of the Iraqi Shi’ite opposition and Kurdish resistance leaders in northern Iraq have all spoken out against the Bush administration’s war plans.

Tom Jackson of New Hampshire Peace Action, who spent the summer of 2000 living in Iraq with ordinary Iraqis, made the point, “The Gulf War did not end--it has continued for the last twelve years. The sanctions have killed over one million people. According to UNICEF, the sanctions kill 5,000 children a month.” Iraq’s civilian infrastructure was almost totally destroyed by American bombing during the Gulf War. Although Iraq is allowed to import food and medicine under the oil-for-food program, the amount is inadequate and the sanctions prevent Iraq from importing the materials it needs to repair the civilian infrastructure, leaving the economy a disaster and creating such unsafe health conditions as sewers running into the streets.

The people who stood out the most on the walk were the two monks and one nun from the Buddhist order of Nipponzan Myohoji, based at the Leverett Peace Pagoda, which organized the walk with the support of a number of other progressive faith groups. As the group marched through the streets of Boston, one of the monks held up the group’s large banner, while the two other monastics beat small drums and chanted a Buddhist peace prayer. Nipponzan Myohoji has in the past organized walks around a number of issues, including prison reform and healing the effects of slavery.

The group stopped briefly in front of Boston City Hall. There, Kristina Olson, whose sister was killed in the September 11th attacks, sang some of her songs dedicated to peace. In an interview afterward, Olson said a war with Iraq, “will perpetuate the cycle of violence. If we go to war in Iraq, the violence we see in the Middle East now will pale in comparison. It will increase the likelihood of future terrorist attacks that might make 9-11 pale in comparison. We will also further alienate our allies. We’ll further the suffering of the innocent people in Iraq. I’m not saying I support Saddam Hussein but the main thing is that innocent people will die. Thousands of people are already suffering badly--children are dying form malnourishment and lack of medical attention. We need to be compassionate and re-embrace our humanity.”

At 11:00, the group arrived in front of the JFK Building, where Senators Kerry and Kennedy have their offices; here the closing rally was held. The gathered group included passers-by who had joined along the way, elderly people and high school students, and members of Veterans for Peace. In addition to speeches, there were Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Native American prayers.

Cathy Hoffman, the Cambridge Peace Commissioner, said, “I had hopes that the tragedy of 9-11 might generate an opportunity for genuine reflection. I had hopes that there would be a different response. People were celebrating not fighters, but the rescue workers, firefighters and police officers who tried to help others and in some cases gave their lives. But the Bush administration turned this into war-making and chauvinism.”

Community activist and Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner put the conflict in Iraq in the context of the history of the US government’s bloody foreign policy, citing numerous attempts to assassinate Castro and the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile. He said, “If we want to end terrorism, we have to stop being terrorists. The attempt to go to war with Iraq is another act of terrorism--it’s an attempt to brutalize not only the people of Iraq, but to show the people in the whole region what happens if they get out of line. We have to take responsibility for the actions of our government. As long as we act as terrorists, we will live in terror because of the destruction we bring on other people.”

Speakers at the rally declared themselves willing to commit civil disobedience to prevent war. Hoffman called on people to draw on “the traditions of real peace-making that are part of the traditions of this country, both of those forced to come here and those who came here seeking a better life.”

The rally ended with the group gathered in a circle, holding hands, as a final prayer was said.

****

For more information on Nipponzan Myohoji’s work, contact them at 413-367-2202 or 100 Cave Hill Road; Leverett MA 01054. For more information on the planned campaign of civil disobedience in response to war with Iraq, see http://www.peacepledge.org. For more information on the Iraqi crisis, see the Iraq Action Coalition’s website, http://www.iraqaction.org. For more information on the “war on terror”, see ZNet, http://www.zmag.org.
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