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2nd Anniversary of Iraq War

We gathered to mourn, to pray for peace, and to speak out against war. Read about our incredible worship experience marking the 2nd anniversary of the Iraq war.


 
The plan was to open the service with the blowing of the Shofar but God had other plans. The Shofar, a ram's horn most typically recognized as a symbol of the Jewish High Holy days, was stuck in traffic on March 20th 2005.  
     

Back in the day, the Shofar would be blown to alert people to an impending attack, or to call them to the temple for a time of worship. On this day, however, all were already assembled. The attack was already under way and these people had been praying for years. The Iraq war was now two years old and people of faith had gathered from all over to mourn the dead, pray for the wounded, and work for a day when peace would reign.

Quickly adjusting to the lack of a Shofar, the Jewish Shema Ysrael was chanted in Hebrew. "Hear oh Israel. The Lord is your God. The Lord is One." The tune, known to the singer since childhood, filled the circular worship space at the 1st Unitarian Church of San Jose. Next, a young Muslim man chanted the Islamic Call to Prayer. Americans are becoming used to hearing the melodic "Alahu Akbar!" God is great! For those who know neither Hebrew nor Arabic, the lyrics and music of Jewish and Islamic liturgy don't sound all that different. Two tribes, born of the same parent, sharing some of the same holy scriptures, sang surrounded by other brothers and sisters who follow Christ, Buddha, and Krishna. Calling Buddhists to prayer, next up was inviting the meditation bowl to sound. Finally, the opening closed with a Christian call to worship.

     
 

The entire downstairs of the sanctuary was filled. About 200 people had gathered and the Rev. Issaiah Jones of Covenant Presbyterian Church wasn't going to let them just sit around and mope about the state of the world.

He got the crowd out of their seats and singing, praising God.

     
 

Poetry, scripture, and more song followed. We mourned the dead, prayed for the wounded, prayed for strength for ourselves and the peace movement, and praised God for bringing us all together and reminding us of our shared values.

Finally, the Shofar and its player arrived just in time. Instead of it calling us to worship, it called us to the streets to protest. We gathered our signs, our belongings, and our resolve and headed out onto 3rd Street to march to the Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

     

As we exited the church, the skies opened up and drenched us with rain. "Pray!" one of our Muslim leaders shouted out, "however you pray to our God" she elaborated. We did and in a few moments, the rain stopped. Sometimes you have to get wet first before you know what to pray for.

Nearly 200 marched to the plaza and shortly after that, nearly 2,000 more people marched from their starting point at Veteran's Plaza. Together we made quite a crowd. Paul George, head of Peninsula Peace and Justice Center and one of the organizers of the main event, improvised a new chant, "It may rain and it may pour, but we will stop this bloody war!" As our Muslim brothers and sisters are fond of saying,

Inshala, God willing.

 
     
  MVPJ thanks all who gathered at on Sunday. We are especially grateful to the congregation and staff of 1st. Unitarian Church for inviting us to worship in their sanctuary. Together, we are working for peace and we will prevail.

- Craig Wiesner, MVPJ Steering Committee

 
All photographs courtesy of Derrick Kikuchi.


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