<< Front page Commentary March 19, 2004

Tappan Square global community peace vigil

To the Editors:

On a remarkable night a year ago, Tappan Square was ringed with candlelight amid the glory of a full moon and the sounds of silence. In the darkness, multitudes gathered for Oberlin’s version of a candlelight vigil held around the world in solidarity with the people of Iraq.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and South African religious leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was among the leaders who called for this international vigil of prayerful remembrance.

Today, a year later, a handful of people gather on Saturday at noon at Tappan Square to bear witness to the words of another great teacher of non-violence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that “‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ only leaves us blind and toothless.” March 20 marks the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. It unsettles my heart that my life goes on much in the same way as it did before that invasion, while the lives of countless others do not – the lives of the 553 U.S. services members who have died since military operations began.

The 3,177 U.S. service members injured and their grieving families and friends; the lives of the estimated 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed in combat, not to mention the untold number of Iraqi soldiers killed in battle– and all their grieving families and friends. For updates of the Iraqi civilian deaths through the work of independent U.S./U.K. researchers, visit iraqbodycount.net.

If I move my attention to the decade before the war began, I must consider the estimated 500,000 children who died as a result of the U.S.-backed U.N. sanctions against Iraq. I dare not forget the massive numbers of disappearances and murders associated with the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. Then there is Afganistan, so quickly forgotten by the American media and public.

I cannot live without hope. But, I also cannot forget my sorrow. If you too need a communal place to hope and grieve, please come to Peace Community Church: 44 E. Lorain St., Oberlin, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 20, for the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We will hold a service of sorrow and hope.

This interfaith service is sponsored by the Community Peace Builders, a new coalition of folks who desire to build bridges of peace and reconciliation through concrete deeds of compassion and justice. After the service, there will be a procession to the corner of Tappan Square for the weekly peace vigil at noon, which has taken place in rain, sleet, ice, snow, wind or shine since shortly after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Everyone is welcome. We are all united in this global community of sorrow and hope.

–Rev. Mary Hammond
Peace Community Church


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