Religious leaders representing tens of millions of Americans stood in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol to call religious communities of various traditions to a day of fasting and prayer to end the Iraq war. October 8th is the date chosen for the fast.
"We must return to the ancient disciplines so that we will turn away from violence toward reverence," said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, Philadelphia, to reporters gathered in front of the United Methodist Church office building on Maryland Avenue.
Represented at the news conference were leaders of Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, and Baptist traditions. The Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), and himself a Baptist, organized the news event.
Ancient practices were used at the news conference in the call to the nation. The ram's horn, or Jewish shofar, was sounded to "wake up" a nation. Ashes were placed on the leaders' foreheads as signs of repentance. A bell was tolled to call America's people of faith to join together on October 8 to fast from dawn to sunset, breaking the fast with their Muslim sisters and brothers.
"When you are fasting for Ramadan, you are enhancing your sense of compassion," said Dr. Sayeed Syeed from the Islamic Society of North America. "We will be asking mosques to open their doors to people of other faiths around the world on October 8 for prayer and dialogue."
Dr. Syeed said the Islamic Center in nearby Sterling, Va., will open its doors to interfaith neighbours Oct. 8 to break the Ramadan fast together. Local religious groups are registering events at Interfaith Fast, a website managed by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
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