Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXX - Issue 1 - News
Stanford Catholics Fast for Peace in Iraq
by Charles Hallford
On the night of Sunday February 16th, Father Jim Barnett and Sheila Provencher spoke at Stanford University's Tresidder Student Union. They talked to a crowd of approximately 40 people about their efforts in the anti-war movement. In addition, they implored the crowd to pray and fast in order to help prevent war with Iraq and to work peaceably to encourage our government not to declare war. This presentation, entitled "Stanford Catholics Fast for Peace in Iraq," was only one of fourteen different speeches they were to give that week alone all over northern and southern California.
On September 1st, Father Barnett and Ms. Provencher along with Jane Abell and Brian Pierce, "began a 28-day, water-only fast," according to their brochure, available at the presentation.
On September 1st, Mr. Barnett and Ms. Provencher along with Jane Abell and Brian Pierce "began a 28-day, water-only fast," according to their brochure, available at the presentation. "Daily they had taken this stance of fast and prayer as a public witness for peace in Union Square Park and occasionally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations, both in New York." In addition, they have started a campaign for people all over the world to fast and pray for non-violent peace, called the "There Must Be Another Way" movement.
Three months ago, Father Barnett and Ms. Provencher planned their visit to Stanford University. They did not know then what was to happen in the months to come or even what events would occur the weekend of their visit. As it turned out, Mr. Barnett said that they were "at about the 11th hour of trying to stop the invasion of Iraq."
Early in the presentation, Mr. Barnett asked the group present to take a moment of silence "to simply take in an aura of peace." The moment ended with the singing of a song that started, "Peace is flowing like a river."
According to Mr. Barnett, "9/11 showed us that our country is vulnerable," but after six months it became apparent that "something was killing not only our bodies, but also our souls ... Our response to 9/11 was a search for security, a search for justice," but now "has been replaced by a disregard" for international law and a quest for vengeance.
Concerning war with Iraq, both speakers often repeated the phrase, "There must be another way." This chosen mantra was the theme of their presentation. "A demon has been loosed in our country," said Barnett, "a demon that seduces us to become what we deplore."
After 9/11 and as war with Iraq began to approach slowly but steadily, Barnett and his associates discussed what role they should play concerning this issue. "We started to look at a response," he said. "A theme began to develop for us: prayer and fasting." However, after talking about what our government is doing, "We became angry and realized how lacking we were in non-violent love." Mr. Barnett asked the group to remove from their hearts any anger they may have toward those supporting war.
"We believe in the transforming power of nonviolence, prayer, and fasting," Mr. Barnett further said. "The fact that the war has not yet happened," he suggested, is due to prayer and fasting. "Peace is the only way. God will show us that way if only we have the emptiness and purity of heart to listen."
After Barnett spoke to the crowd, Ms. Provencher gave a PowerPoint presentation in which she discussed the state of the Iraqi people and how the last twelve years have affected them. She said that while many of us think of Iraq as a third-world country, "at the end of the 1980s, Iraq was. . . . bordering on the first world." However, since the Gulf War, the Iraqis have suffered severe economic hardships.
"Nothing comes into Iraq without being approved by a committee in the UN," Ms. Provencher stated. Then she called this situation "a siege that has been going on for the last ten years." She said, "Things such as graphite pencils and schoolbooks are banned." While she did not know why the schoolbooks were banned, she did explain that graphite pencils were banned because graphite can theoretically be used to make bombs.
"Over 500,000 children under five have died and over 1.5 million civilians as a result of the sanctions [on Iraq]," Ms. Provencher claimed. Furthermore, she stated that the number of infant deaths is equivalent to "a World Trade Center full of toddlers dying every 3 weeks for 12 years."
Later on, Ms. Provencher posed the question, "Is war Ôliberation?'" She replied to her own question with a quote from Dr. Hasan Abu Nimeh, "Internal regime change is the only solution."
Near the end of the presentation, Father Barnett asked the group to have a "minute in silence" to "consider what gives you hope" and how peace can be brought to the Middle East in "other ways" than a war.
At the end of her presentation, Ms. Provencher passed around a picture of a three-month old Iraqi child suffering from malnutrition. "I've been praying with this picture of this Iraqi child for 5 years." Mr. Barnett told the audience that "The one person who for sure wants the war to happen is Osama bin Laden," saying that a war with Iraq would cause the Muslim world to be more sympathetic to Saddam.
Page last modified on Thursday, 02-Mar-2006 00:21:09 MST.