Iraq War Protesters March in Washington Christians opposed to the war in Iraq gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Friday night to pray and protest U.S. involvement in the Middle Eastern country. Protests are also set for Saturday in Washington.
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Iraq War Protesters March in Washington

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Iraq War Protesters March in Washington

Iraq War Protesters March in Washington

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up: the most elegant of Irishmen. But first, Tuesday is the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and demonstrations around the country will mark the occasion this weekend. In Washington, D.C., last night, thousands of people opposed to the war gathered at the National Cathedral for an evening prayer service, then marched to the White House. There were more than 200 arrests for civil disobedience.

NPR's Rachel Martin reports.

RACHEL MARTIN: The National Cathedral was a sanctuary in the truest sense of the word last night. As the winds howled and freezing rain fell, more than 3,000 Christians from around the country gathered here for refuge, reflection and a call for an end to what they see as an unjust war.

(Soundbite of prayer service)

Reverend RAPHAEL WARNOCK (Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church): We need a surge in troops in the nonviolent army of the Lord.

(Soundbite of clapping)

MARTIN: Reverend Raphael Warnock is the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, the home church of Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. WARNOCK: The danger confronting America is not that we may lose the war. The real danger is that America may well lose its soul.

(Soundbite of applause)

MARTIN: Reverend Jim Wallace is the founder of the group, Sojourners, which helped organize the event. Speaking near the end of the service, Wallace articulated the belief that had brought everyone here - that the war is an offense against God.

Reverend JIM WALLACE (Founder, Sojourners): The war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong and was from the very start.

(Soundbite of applause)

MARTIN: The crowd was filled with lay people, religious leaders and families who've lost some of their own in Iraq.

Ms. CELESTE ZAPALA(ph) (Resident, Philadelphia): I'm Celeste Zapala. I'm from Philadelphia, and I'm the mother of Sergeant Sherwood Baker who was killed in Baghdad on April the 26th, 2004.

MARTIN: She says it was incredibly painful to send her son off to a war she didn't believe in.

Ms. ZAPALA: And I feel like I kind of knew before when he left. I felt like I wasn't going to see him. And so I do the work I do, to speak against the war, because I honor his memory. I honor the goodness of him.

MARTIN: At the conclusion of the service, hundreds of people armed with snow boots, raincoats and electric candles ventured outside and started their three-mile walk to the White House.

(Soundbite of drumbeats)

MARTIN: Protesters near the front of the processional carried a wooden cross with American flags hanging from either side, and they raised their voices with their own battle hymn.

(Soundbite of drumbeats)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) (unintelligible) when the saints go marching in.

MARTIN: Verdeena Lee(ph), she's the one singing, drove from Ohio to be here. She says American leaders have sometimes used religious language to explain U.S. actions in Iraq and some conservative Christian leaders support the war. But she says they do not speak for her.

Ms. VIRGINIA LEE (Resident, Ohio): There are several hundreds, thousands of Christians who don't think that this war is right and it is time that we made our voice known.

MARTIN: Suzanne Doroughty(ph) is a grandmother from Virginia. She says it's taken four years for people of faith to wake up and start questioning the basis for the war.

Ms. SUZANNE DOROTHY (Resident, Virginia): The entire nation, I think, was subsumed in fear and I think fear won. And I think it kept people silent. It paralyzed us. So I'm glad to see that maybe we're coming back to life.

MARTIN: There will be other rallies this weekend in Washington. Some marchers will carry signs calling for an end to the war. Some will wear yellow ribbons to show their support and all will mark what most agree is a very grim anniversary.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Washington.

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