United Methodist Women Calls for a Just Peace in the Middle East
Women's Division directors and staff at Peace Vigil, April 20, in Stamford,
Conn. Photo by Barbara Wheeler
by DANA E. JONES*
National leaders of the close to 1 million-member United Methodist Women organization took to the streets to call for peace in Iraq, no U.S. war in Iran, and an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestine Friday, April 20. Directors and staff of the Women's Division of the United Methodist Church held a noontime prayer vigil outside the Marriott Hotel in
Stamford, Conn., where they are meeting for their semi-annual board meeting April 20-23.
The hotel is on one of Stamford's busiest corners across the street from a large indoor shopping mall and amidst corporate offices. Good weather meant shoppers and businesspeople walked and drove past the vigil where participants held signs that read:
- "Blessed Are the Peacemakers";
- "Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home Now!"
- "No U.S. Attack on Iran!" and
- "Pray and Act for Peace"
E. Judith Siaba of Chicago, chair of the organization's Section on Christian Social Responsibility spoke for participants:
"With continued escalation of violence in the Middle East, it is our mandate as Christian women to oppose war and call for peace. We call on the U.S. government to provide humanitarian aid for Iraqi victims of the war. We call on the U.S. government to bring our troops home."
Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, United Methodist Women members have posted prayers for peace to the organization's website: www.umwmission.org. They have engaged a year-long spiritual-growth study on peace, shalom, salaam. This summer they will launch a nationwide letter-writing campaign to lawmakers and newspapers urging withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and opposing military action against Iran. They will begin a two-year study of Palestine/Israel and will speak out for peace throughout the Middle East.
Left to right, Women's Division Directors, Lisa Swett and Jeanette Kraus, and Women's Division Executive, elmira Nazombe at Peace Vigil. Photo by Barbara Wheeler.
The vigil is part of United Methodist Women's ongoing opposition to U.S. involvement in and support of war in the Middle East:
- October 2001: The Women's Division voted to "urge the U.S. president to press for peace in the Middle East, including security for the state of Israel and justice and sovereignty for the Palestinian people."
- October 2002: The division reaffirmed "its opposition to war as the instrument for resolving the continuing conflict with Iraq" and urged "all governments, most particularly the United States and the Security Council of the United Nations, to pursue peaceful means in resolving conflicts with Iraq."
- Ongoing: The Women's Division has long-called for a just peace between Palestine and Israel, and is a founding member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which supports human rights for all Palestinians and Israelis.
Their division's actions are in keeping with United Methodist Church policy.
The Women's Division is the policy-making arm of United Methodist Women, an organization of close to 1 million members across the United States whose purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members give close to $20 million a year for programs and projects with women, children and youth in the United States and around the world.