Peace activists prayed and plotted protest strategy at St. Mark's Episcopal Church as the U.S. went to war with Iraq last night.
“We have basically opened up the church for 24 hours and maybe longer for people to find a safe haven in the storm,” said the Rev. Ted Voorhees, pastor of the church at 2272 Collingwood Blvd.
Members of the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition were among the people in attendance in the sanctuary. They participated in a vigil, then assembled in an adjoining community room. Throughout the night, as people came and went, about two dozen people gathered at any one time in the sancturary.
They watched President Bush on a small TV give a short speech telling the world the United States had gone to war.
“It is what I expected to hear,” said Amjad Doumani, one of the activists. “I just don't understand where he thinks the American people see an imminent threat.”
But others said the Bush administration has bombarded the country with fear about a potential weapons threat from Iraq as a way to win support for taking military action.
Others at the vigil believe the Bush administration succeeded in making a link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington where they believe there has been no proven connection.
The repeated use of the color-coded alert system to a possible terrorist threat has been used by the administration to sway support when Bush officials pushed for United Nations military intervention in February and again in recent days.
President Bush's remarks drew deep sighs of disappointment and disdain.
“Can you believe it?” Terry Lodge said. “[Bush calls the invasion] the disarming of Iraq. They are defusing 1,000 pound bombs over Iraq.”
He said the peace group has planned for a rally at 5:30 p.m. today around the perimeter of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park to protest the war.
The church's vigil began at 8 p.m. with prayers, readings, and meditation to be offered on the hour through the night.
“We are praying for peace,” Mr. Voorhees said. “We also are praying for people in the armed forces, the Iraqis who will die, the U.S. citizens who will die. I don't think war is what God wants.”