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Two UU ministers arrested protesting war

In Washington, Sinkford urges political leaders to seek forgiveness for Iraq war.
By Donald E. Skinner

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Two Unitarian Universalist ministers, the Rev. Meg Whitaker-Greene and the Rev. Paul W. Sawyer, were among 41 religious leaders and other peace activists arrested Friday, March 7, in Washington, D.C., in a nonviolent public witness against the Iraq war.

The group was arrested inside the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill as they prayed for peace. Alex Winnett, the program associate for peacemaking in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Washington Office for Advocacy, said the arrests were for unlawful assembly. Those arrested were held for about three hours. Charges were dropped after payment of a $50 fine. Winnett, a coordinator of Friday’s event, said police were respectful and professional. “They returned our peacefulness in kind,” he said.

Sawyer is minister emeritus of Throop UU Church in Pasadena, Calif. Whitaker-Greene is a member of First UU Society of San Francisco and a founding member of the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco.

The event was organized by the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership, of which the UUA is a member. Other partners include Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh organizations. Rob Keithan, the director of the UUA’s Washington Office for Advocacy, was a member of the steering committee for the event.

Members of the different faiths gathered in various places of worship in Washington, D.C., before the protest. About 250 UUs gathered at All Souls Church, Unitarian, where UUA President William G. Sinkford delivered a homily. Sinkford asked UUs to consider writing a “love letter” to political leaders and to the world. Such a letter, he said, would call our nation to confession, acknowledging the mistake it made in invading Iraq. The letter would also ask the world for forgiveness and acknowledge that we are ready to “search for win-win, not we-win solutions.”

Many of the participants in the various worship services gathered afterward in a park near the Hart Senate Office Building. That event included a “Rope of Hope,” hundreds of feet of rope decorated with peace signs, prayer flags, and prayers for peace, sent by peace activists across North America. From the park, those who were willing to risk arrest entered the office building.

Sinkford said in a later interview, “One of the most optimistic parts of the day was that it was really broadly interfaith. It felt like the progressive side of the religious aisle was beginning to speak with one voice on this issue.”

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