A Pax on Both Their Houses - Interfaith Peace Effort Ignored By Mainstream Media
by Sheila Musaji
The American Muslim has actively encouraged our readers to sign on to A Pax on Both Our Houses - Peace Not War With Iran and to sign on and donate in order to help publish it in newspapers in Iowa and New Hampshire right away and in the New York Times as soon as possible. The statement has been published in Iowa, but we have still have much more to do.
This effort was spearheaded by Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center, and has been endorsed by more than 60 nationally and internationally recognized Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders including Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church, USA; Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Rev. James Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church; Rabbi Or N. Rose, Associate Dean, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College; Rabbi Shelia Peltz Weinberg, Institute for Jewish Spirituality; Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun; Imam Madhi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation; Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America; and Sheila Musaji, Editor of The American Muslim. Many of the leaders who signed the statement, including both Bray and Mattson, did so in their capacities as leaders of the organizations they serve.
Hoping to gain the attention of mainstream media news organizations and presidential candidates, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, partnered with the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, MFSA, which purchased a full page advertisement in the December 20 edition of the Des Moines Register. They called a press conference in Des Moines on December 19th to put the call for peace before the public and the 2008 presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa.
“A Pax on Both Our Houses,” a very significant interfaith call for peace in the Middle East, quickly and easily garnered support among leading progressive political, social, and religious organizations in Iowa. Vernon Naffier, President of the Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa, endorsed “A Pax on Both Our Houses.” So did the Catholic Peace Ministry; the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Iowa; and the Board of Church and Society, Iowa Annual Conference, United Methodist Church.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) sent an aide, Margaret Vernon, to the press conference to read a statement favoring diplomatic engagement with Iran. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie attended the press conference and by all accounts delivered a moving statement of support for peace in the Middle East. In addition to Waskow, Cownie, Vernon, and Naffier, also speaking at the press conference were Dr. David Drake, former Clerk of the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting and a member of the Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility who recently returned from a two week visit to Iran sponsored by the Fellowship for Reconciliation; Inez Ireland, on behalf of UMC Bishop of Iowa Gregory Palmer; Jeffrey Weiss, representing AFSC Iowa; and Eloise Cranke, representing MFSA Iowa.
The only people invited who didn’t bother to show up for the press conference were the reporters. All local and, with one exception, all national mainstream media organizations that had been contacted ignored the event.
Given that this interfaith effort to prevent an attack on Iran comes at what may be a crucial moment during a war in which religion plays a far more complex role than in the past, during a time when religion and theology are finding dramatically increased expression in public life and in the political arena and in ways that directly impact political decision-making at the highest levels of government, the evident indifference of so many mainstream media organizations to the Shalom Center/MFSA Iowa press conference in support of “A Pax on Both Our Houses” seems almost inexplicably counterintuitive.
Rev. Chester Guinn of the MFSA said he personally delivered the group’s press release about “A Pax on Both Our Houses” and invitation to the press conference to the Des Moines Register, to local television and radio stations, to the Associated Press (AP) including a personal e-mail to Mike Glover, Iowa Statehouse Correspondent and Chief Political Writer for the Des Moines bureau of the AP, and to CNN. Yet not even one representative of the local mainstream media news organizations, print or broadcast, showed up for the press conference. Only one national mainstream media news organization showed any interest whatsoever; a New York Times reporter listened to the news conference via telephone.
Guinn said he feels that the news media has decided to divert the public’s attention from the war/peace issue to domestic concerns.
“If a sentence or two appears in a New York Times article reflecting that Iowans still regard the Middle East war issue more important that domestic issues, we will be very pleased,” said Guinn.
And despite their concerted efforts that’s about all these would-be peacemakers got from corporate media. On December 20, the New York Times published a four-sentence article headlined “Religious Leaders Call for Talks with Iran,” in the National Briefing section. The article did not name any of the organizations involved nor any of the organizers or signatories. The nation’s self-described newspaper of record buried its dismissive note, less than 100 words about an important interfaith initiative in behalf of peace, on page 24.
According to Rabbi Waskow:
“We are moving ahead with a 4-step plan: (1) publishing our Call in the leading newspaper of Iowa (already done); (2) doing the same in New Hampshire; (3) doing the same in the NY Times or another major national journal; (4) inviting people to take part in podcast and teleconference TEACH-INS on the little-known history and possible futures of US-Iran relations and on achieving a decent peace with Iran, Iraq, and among the whole field of warring nations in the broader Middle East.
In a moment when religious differences are often turned into violence and war, it is especially important to show that religiously, spiritually, and ethically rooted folk—especially but not only Jews, Christians, and Muslims –- can reach out across the boundaries of our communities to affirm the Unity at our roots.
The statement below does that. Leaders of our traditions and communities have signed it. We invite you to join with them to sign it and to support its publication to a wide audience, by making a tax-deductible gift for presenting it broadly. To do this we need your help. Your signature and your financial support. Your tax-deductible contributions. Please click on the Donate button ON THE RIGHT-HAND EDGE OF THIS PAGE and in the “behalf of” box write “Iran peace.” If you possibly can, please aim at a gift of $360. Less will make it VERY hard to publish this as we hope to do. To appear in the printed version, a minimum gift of $70 is necessary. ALL signers will appear on the Website.
Here is the actual statement:
A PAX ON BOTH OUR HOUSES
Now that we know that Iran is not making nuclear weapons, the God of peace and justice calls on Americans and Iranians to make a full peace with each other—not dither any longer between peace and war. For as the Prophet Elijah cried out, “How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? Choose!”
God calls us to choose Peace – Because, as the Bible teaches, every human being is made in the Image of God, and as the Quran teaches, to kill one human being is to destroy the world; to save one human being is to save the world.
To choose Peace – because both the Bible and the Quran teach we must always act to protect the poor; yet as President Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” In America, millions are suffering from this theft; in the world, billions. And the cost of the war to the US alone is now estimated at two TRILLION dollars.
To choose Peace – because it is shameful in the eyes of God for Christians, Jews, and Muslims to incite hatred against each other. This hatred leads to war, and then war becomes a justification for more hatred. In each of our communities, there are some who peddle hatred and incite violence. We must all turn away from such idolatry.
To choose Peace –- Because hatred, violence, and threats of war undermine the very liberties and human rights that most Americans and Iranians prize, and benefit only those who thirst for power, not for justice.
We call upon the Government of the United States to end all actions, threats, plans, or support for war against Iran.
We call upon the Supreme Religious Authorities of Iran to end all threats against the existence of Israel and all denials of the historical truth of the Nazi Holocaust, to make clear that Iran will not support violence against civilians by its own or other forces, and to reaffirm for the future their prohibition of any effort to seek nuclear weapons for Iran.
We call upon the governments of both nations at once to open direct talks on all issues of mutual concern, looking toward a mutual peace.
And we call upon the American government to move forward in the spirit of humility and generosity, rather than arrogance and domination, toward a broad peace settlement in the entire Middle East, including an end to the occupation of Iraq, peace between Israel and Palestine and all other states in the region, and a major international effort to protect human rights and promote grass-roots economic development in the region.
We call upon the peoples of the world to support this call, for the sake of conscience and survival.
Please help us to make peace! Sign on and donate today.