By Anthony Manousos
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (icujp.org) is one of the leading interfaith peace and justice groups in Los Angeles, if not in the nation. I have served on its Board of Directors for a number of years.
ICUJP was founded in Los Angeles after 9.11 to support the work of Faith leaders from Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish and other spiritual faiths and traditions who say “Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War and Violence…”
ICUJP’s activities promote critical examination of the costs of violence and war at home and in the world from the Faith perspective. We insist on respect for human rights, international law and the use of peaceful means in the resolution of conflicts.
Since September 2001, a committed group has combined with newcomers every Friday morning in a church basement in Los Angeles at 7:00 am. At these meetings one is likely to hear issues presented by ACLU attorneys, Palestinian/Israeli nonviolent activists or Colombian labor organizers, in political/social discussions with a faith-based orientation.
Dialogue at the meetings has been characterized by Rev. James Lawson (a founding member and regular attender and speaker) as unique in his experience for the courage of Jews and Muslims in particular to face issues that can inflame divisions —- and yet these members have found political common ground.
ICUJP’s monthly activities have included Interfaith Services and Forums throughout the Los Angeles area. Our Services and Forums have been addressed by distinguished persons such as US Rep Barbara Lee, Global Exchange and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, State Senator Richard Polanco, Dr. Hassan Hathout, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, former California State Assemblyman Tom Hayden, School of the Americas Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois and others.
On Saturday, I was the speaker at a screening of Norman Solomon’s film “War Made Easy,” which took place at the Islamic Center of Irvine. This is part of a series of screenings that have taken place at various religious venues. Around 30 Muslims showed up for this event and there was a lively discussion afterwards, which I helped to moderate.
Asked what could be done to end the wars in the Middle East, I pointed out a long-term and short-term perspective. The long-term perspective requires that we see war as a man-made institution, like slavery, that is not sanctioned by God or innate in our genes. Just as slavery was abolished, so war can be abolished, if we have enough determination. In fact, war MUST be abolished if the human species is to survive. Our short-term strategy should be to expose the lies and tell the truth about war, its moral bankruptcy, its economic and environmental impact, and its human cost. We need to pressure our elected officials through phone calls, letters and visits to their offices. We also need to take to heart the example of what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, and the Middle East. We the people have more power than we perhaps realized. It is time for people of the world to unite to stop the War Machine and to use our resources for peaceful purposes.