To observe the one-year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Christians nationwide will hold special prayer and worship services, vigils, rallies and marches this weekend.
The National Council of Churches USA has provided a panoply of resources for individuals and congregations to mark the anniversary, including prayers, readings, litanies, liturgies and reflections.
"Last year, America's faith communities were in the forefront of the search for peaceful solutions to the Iraq crisis," said the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. "This year, they are leading reflection on where we are as a nation after a year of war."
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush spoke from the White House, March 19, to mark the anniversary, saying that the war on terror is not a figure of speech but “an inescapable calling of our generation.”
"One year ago, military forces of a strong coalition entered Iraq to enforce United Nations demands, to defend our security and to liberate that country from the rule of a tyrant," Bush said. "For Iraq, it was a day of deliverance. For the nations of our coalition, it was a moment when years of demands and pledges turned to decisive action."
Bush said Iraq is undoubtedly better off than it was a year ago, and he commended those who contributed to the cause.
"One year after the armies of liberation arrived, every soldier who has fought, every aid worker who has served, every Iraqi who has joined in their country’s defense can look with pride on a brave and historic achievement," he said. "They’ve served freedom's cause, and that is a privilege."
Representatives from 84 countries that have played a role in the war on terror joined Bush at the White House.
"We are the nations that have recognized the threat of terrorism, and we are the nations that will defeat that threat," the president said. "Each of us has pledged before the world: We will never bow to the violence of a few. We will face this mortal danger, and we will overcome it together."
Prior to the message of remembrance, President Bush visited Fort Campbell Ky. to thank the soldiers who fought in Iraq, for a job well done and to welcome them home on a Sunday parade, March 18.
"All who serve at Fort Campbell and all who wear the uniform of the United States are serving at a crucial hour in the history of freedom," Bush told the trops. "In the first war of the 21st century, you're defending your fellow citizens against ruthless enemies, and by your sacrifice, you're making our country more secure. You have delivered justice to many terrorists, and you’re keeping the rest of them on the run."
The president commended the troops for their bravery and the progress they made during the past year, and encouraged them to carry out future missions that are necessary to defend America and protect civilians in other nations.
"One year ago tomorrow, the Armed Forces of the United States entered Iraq to end the regime of Saddam Hussein," Bush said. "After his years of defiance, we gave the dictator one final chance. He refused. And so in one year's time, Saddam Hussein has gone from a palace to a bunker to a spider hole to jail."
Saying that the Sept. 11 attack taught him a lesson he would never forget, Bush said his administration, members of Congress and the United Nations all agreed Iraq presented an imminent threat.
"I had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman or take such threats seriously and defend America. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time," Bush said to thunderous applause from the troops.
"When Saddam Hussein went down, the terrorists lost an ally forever," he said. "Because America and our allies acted, an aggressive threat to the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world is now gone."
Bush thanked the troops once again, and compared them to the great heroes of World War II.
"Like your fathers and grandfathers before you, you have liberated millions from oppression. You've added to the momentum of freedom across the world," the president said. "You have helped keep America safe. You make us all proud to be Americans, and you have made me proud to be your commander in chief."
The brave soldiers who returned from Iraq said they were encouraged from President Bush’s speech.
"He makes us feel like we're doing something important and actually worth doing," Spc. Matthew Mitchell said.
After addressing the troops, President Bush and the first lady had lunch with a small group of soldiers and met privately with the families of those who lost their sons and daughters during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 101st Airborne Division which is stationed in Fort Campbell were among the first to move across the Iraq-Kuwait border one year ago, and the division with more the most causalities with 60 soldiers killed in the battle for freedom.