Local religious leaders will pray to stop Iraq attack

February 19, 1998


Staff Writer

As the United States prepares for air strikes against Iraq, four Washington County religious leaders plan to pray for peace in the Middle East.

The Clinton administration has threatened to bomb Iraq if the nation does not comply with a U.N. resolution demanding access to possible chemical and biological weapons sites.

That has sparked concern among area ministers. David Buchenroth, senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, said his church will host the vigil next Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.


Buchenroth, who is also leads the Washington County Council of Churches, said the organization discussed the issue on Wednesday.

The prayer vigil will be a cross-denominational event; representatives of B'nai Abraham, St. John's Episcopal Church and Christ Reformed Church plan to participate. The religious leaders will lead prayers for peace followed by silent prayer.

"We Jews have been yearning for peace in the Middle East for a very long time," said Rabbi Janice Garfunkel, of B'nai Abraham.

"Who knows, maybe a small act of unity, love and worship here in Hagerstown will help to foster redemption," she said.

Buchenroth said most of the religious leaders have not yet had a chance to inform their congregations of the vigil. But he said he hopes more people will come than showed up at a vigil to give thanks for the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Only about 12 people came to that event, he said.

The Rev. Kenneth Dorsch, of St. John's Episcopal Church, said he thinks many whose work does not allow them to attend will be there in spirit.

"It's certainly on people's minds. It's on everybody's minds," he said. "These kinds of services are important They really bring solidarity to different communities of faith."

Buchenroth said the group will pray for peace, not specific policy objectives.

"There's no political agenda here or anything," he said. "We're not trying to be unsupportive of our government or anything like that. We want to pray that they find a peaceful solution to this crisis."

Despite the collision course on which the United States appears headed, Dorsch said war can still be avoided.

"I'm absolutely confident it can be if we have the will to avoid it," he said. "Politically, a lot of motivation for this is people's frustration. We want to do something.

"It's kind of like an itch. When you scratch it, you feel it, but it won't go away," Dorsch said.

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