Area residents are calling for global peace in reaction to high tensions created after the killing of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike at the Baghdad’s international airport last week.
Soleimani is said to have been further developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and the surrounding region leading up to his death, according to the United States Department of Defense.
But, this recent global activity has caused concern for some locally.
At a Monday night vigil at Rome City Hall, local peace activist Jennifer DeWeerth was one of roughly 30 people assembled who stepped out to pray and express a wish for peace.
“I believe people are very worried. ... We have a very fragile peace right now with many countries,” she continued, saying that there is a concern that aggression with countries like Iran might damage those relationships. Further, she has spoken to young people afraid of the draft in the event one is enacted.
The vigil was part of a nationwide action, whose activities are being recorded on social media using hashtag #PrayForPeace, and is organized by a coalition of groups including Red Letter Christians, Faith in Public Life, and Faithful America, according to DeWeerth.
Searching social media posts linked via the #PrayForPeace hashtag include prayers not just for peace with Iran, but prayers for United States armed services safety and prayers for all impacted by the ongoing Australian wildfires.
DeWeerth added that another rally is being planned for Thursday (using the hashtag) on Oneida Square in Utica. Solid details will be released soon, she said.
For DeWeerth, a rush to war could lead to the loss of life and humanitarian disaster, and funds used to pay for escalation would deprive the hungry of food, the sick of health care, and children of their education.
“God yearns for the flourishing of human beings, not their destruction, desolation, and disunity,” she stated.
Others in attendance at the Rome vigil expressed sentiments in statements:
Vigil organizer, Rev. Brian Lothridge said, “I am here tonight because I believe strongly in the power of peace. I believe, because of the teachings of the Christian faith, that those who call themselves Christians are to be people of peace and love.”
Dylan Shibley, an Air Force veteran, quoted U.S. Gen. Omar Bradley, who said, “As far as I am concerned, war itself is immoral,” adding, “We can see the sheer absurdity of our President’s actions [in stirring tensions in the Middle East]. We are here to condemn these actions and pray to all of our respective gods for peace.”
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Colt Brumm urged that all possible diplomatic measures be taken, saying, “We are not under imminent threat, and we have a multitude of options available...We must choose the peaceful path for the sake of humanity and for the sake of our own humanity.”
Rev. Jeffrey Coulter, a veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, shared quotes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the Peacemakers”) and several famous generals about the harm and futility of war, noting, “While I would not call myself a pacifist, I am strongly anti-war, and agree with General Butler, the highly decorated Marine officer that ‘War hurts those who cannot avoid it, and profits those who are already well-off and not at risk.’”
The Associated press contributed to this report.