One weekend in April, I was among thousands of people filling the parks and streets of Washington, D.C. I could feel the deep reverberating pulse of drums and the base chant of "No more war, no more war."
Flowing above were higher voices singing the hauntingly familiar tune, "All we are saying is give peace a chance."
As the sounds harmonized, I noticed the diversity of the people around me: vibrantly passionate young people; families, with kids in strollers; white, Middle Eastern, Asian, black.
Seasoned veterans of many protests still proclaimed the message as relevant now as it was in the '60s: "Peace."
We need to stop the destruction, the injustice, the killing. We need to face our own truths and dare to speak out for what we believe.
I came away from the weekend both sobered by the enormity and the urgency of the current situation, and motivated by the passion, energy and sheer number of the voices that are speaking up for peace.
The exposure to others speaking their truths and expressing their pain brought me closer to learning what really is happening in this world. Such diverse groups successfully working together, even with their varied tactics, gave me hope that we can overcome the conflicts that come with differences and actually find a way to end the escalating violence.
My personal passion is to find ways to make connections between as many peace and justice groups as possible.
The United Church of Christ needs to play a significant role in this process, especially now that the threat of war with Iraq moves closer.
We have acknowledged the importance of diversity and have developed ways to work together while celebrating that diversity. Now is our chance to reach out as individuals and as local churches to others who share our passion for peace and justice.
We can make connections with local peace and justice groups, offer meeting space, make copies of fliers on the church copier, talk about what they're doing and why. We must start by talking to them and by being willing to learn from their experiences.
It is not enough for us to speak out against the escalating violence. We also need to offer something different. By demonstrating that people of different backgrounds, ideologies, traditions and physical characteristics can come together and do the hard work of finding peaceful ways to deal with conflict and differences, we come closer to transforming our world into a place where peace is truly possible.
Diane Schurr is an administrative assistant in the national office of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries in Cleveland. We welcome contributions from laity and clergy.