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Can peace demonstrations push back clock?

2/19/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: This report is a sidebar to UMNS story #087.

By Kathleen LaCamera*

LONDON (UMNS) - For Jim Wallis, the Feb. 15 worldwide peace protests brought to mind the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke of "certain midnight hour" moments in history.

"Perhaps after the massive demonstrations, the clock may be pushed back from five minutes to 10 minutes before midnight," said the Sojourners magazine editor and leader of a U.S. National Council of Churches delegation that met Feb. 18 with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

More than a million peace protesters marched in London alone, making it the largest demonstration in British history. Carrying signs with slogans like, "Make Tea Not War" and "Peace Not Slogans," British demonstrators joined with 3 million in Rome, 2 million others in Spain, 500,000 in Berlin, 150,000 in Melbourne, Australia, and thousands of others in the United States and around the world.

The London Times reported that in the town of Mostar, Bosnia, Muslims and Croats came together for the first time in seven years in a cross-community march for peace. In Tel Aviv, a crowd of more than 3,000 Israelis and Palestinians gathered for a peace demonstration.

"We are all concerned about a war," said the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndugane, a South African Anglican bishop and NCC delegate. "Any war will affect us - in the redirection of resources away from poverty relief, the HIV epidemic and other crises. We in South Africa can offer an example of how to disarm that could reduce the temperature of this conflict."

United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, another delegation member, was emphatic that "war is not the answer." The bishop, who visited Iraq in early January, recently attracted criticism as well as praise after appearing in an anti-war television commercial with actress Janeane Garafalo.

The United Methodist Church's Social Principles state that "war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ," reject war as a way of dealing with foreign policy and insist that "the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them."

Wallis and fellow delegates said the world must find a different way to solve problems and to address the poverty and hopelessness that are the root causes of terrorism. They hope that a growing shift in world public opinion may, for the first time in history, stop a war from happening.

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*LaCamera is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in England.

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