Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Service Draws 3,200 to Washington National Cathedral

Jan 23, 2003 12:06 PM EST

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An estimated 3,200 people filled the Washington (D.C.) National Cathedral Monday afternoon (Jan. 20) to pray for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis. Afterward, worshipers marched down Massachusetts Avenue with candles and "War Is Not the Answer" placards to take that message to the White House.

"Today we pray to God and plead with our national leaders to avoid the destructiveness of war and find a better way to resolve the very real threats involved in this conflict with Iraq," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners and the Convenor of Call to Renewal, one of the service's keynote speakers. "We believe that is possible, and we believe we can still stop this war before it starts."

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Prayer Service for Peace and Justice focused on the connection between war and poverty. "With the potential for war with Iraq on the horizon, we pray that our leaders will honor the legacy of Dr. King and remember the teachings of Christ: That the real wars we must fight are against poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice," said the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington. "We gather not to demonstrate, but to bear witness, through our prayers and presence, to the importance of seeking new ways to move beyond the age old sin of war."

In his introduction to the series of readings and meditations on peace, racism/poverty and global community, Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, recalled hearing Martin Luther King, Jr., in February 1968 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The concern then: the Vietnam War.

"Afterwards,” he said, “we walked arm in arm with Dr. King to the White House, much as we will do today. The words of Dr. King that we will read today aren't from that February 1968 event, but from the pulpit of this cathedral, from which Dr. King preached four days before he was assassinated. As you listen, hear how prophetic these words are for today."

The service was co-sponsored by the National Council of Churches, Children's Defense Fund, Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Call to Renewal and Sojourners.

By Albert H. Lee
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