Under an olive tree next to La Placita Church in the Olvera Street Historic District on Monday, leaders of more than 50 Los Angeles area religious communities gathered for a press conference to present their views on “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
The group, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, was formed shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack “to formulate a response from the faith community.” The group is unanimously opposed to the bombing of Afghanistan ordered by President Bush and insists that the terrorist acts committed against the United States are criminal acts requiring a criminal justice response instead of a declaration of war.
The organization brought together members come from the Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Bahai Faiths, as well as secular and interfaith organizations. More than 40 congregations are involved.
“I am deeply saddened that the cries for retaliation have taken us into war,” said Rev. George Regas, Rector Emeritus of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. “There is a legitimate use of force in apprehending these terrorists and bringing them to justice but it is not war. If we are to be effective in the long-term [fight] against terror, we need a strategy to marginalize the terrorists by making it much harder for them to appeal to those who have, what they believe is, a legitimate anger towards the United States.”
According to Regas, such a strategy would employ international courts of justice, such as those currently prosecuting crimes against humanity perpetrated in Rwanda and the Balkans as well as the American spirit of bravery and selfless compassion shown by the actions of so many firefighters, emergency workers, and common citizens in New York, Washington, D.C., and in the skies above Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.
The group held its first interfaith service on Sunday afternoon at the Masjin Umar Ibn Al Khatab Mosque adjacent to USC. It was by coincidence that the group’s first service was scheduled for the same day that U.S. and British forces began bombing Afghanistan. There were more than 400 people in attendance packing the mosque’s community meeting room to listen to speakers from various denominations. Afterwards many commented on the event being a good opportunity to meet others and begin building a coalition for peace.
The group will be holding interfaith services every Sunday at 4 p.m. in various churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. The next service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at the University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.