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A little more than 100 students, faculty, and staff attended a “Walkout for Peace” yesterday in front of Farinon College Center.

Held to protest the war against Iraq, the event was organized by Students for Social Justice. It started with a talk by Vietnam War veteran Phillip Reiss of Bethlehem, who represented Veterans for Peace. He was followed by about 20 speakers on an open microphone. Roughly two-thirds of those present expressed opposition to Operation Iraqi Freedom, with about 25-30 showing up to counter that group.

The event ran from 11:30 a.m.-12:40 p.m. and was followed at 2 p.m. by a Teach-In at Colton Chapel. Faculty members and College Chaplain Gary Miller participated in panel discussions and lectures.

Miller has announced that at 12:15 p.m. today, continuing at the same time each week until the war ends, the Colton Chapel bells will ring for a few minutes to call the campus community to prayer.

“The Religious Leadership Council urges everyone to pause for a few moments to pray for peace and safety and to remember those whose lives are being threatened in and around Iraq and throughout the world,” says Miller. “You can either pray where you are or [in] the chapel.”

Students for Social Justice is sponsoring a brown bag at 12:15 p.m. today in Interfaith Chapel, Hogg Hall, featuring Ellen Barfield of Voices in the Wilderness. Barfield took a trip to Iraq from Dec. 9, 2002 through Jan. 15.

“They go into Iraq and serve as human shields, then return to the States and tell about the situation there,” explains Fidel Maltez ’05 (Hialeah, Fla.), co-founder of Students for Social Justice.

Another co-founder, Peter Erin ’05 (Beaver, Pa.), served as master of ceremonies for the Walkout. Following opening remarks and comments from a member of Veterans for Peace, the microphone was open to speakers describing their feelings about the war.

Danielle Pollaci ’06 (Trenton, N.J.) read “slam poetry” expressing opposition to the war and decrying the stereotypes of those urging peace.

Emmanuel Kirunda ’05 (Iganga, Uganda) noted that, like President Bush and some in the United States, Saddam Hussein invokes the name of his God to justify his actions.

“The best way to support the troops is to bring them back safely,” said Fayola Bostic ’05 (St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago). Later speaking for a second time, she questioned what the United States would do to help Iraq after the country is devastated by the war.

Mayank Lahiri ’05 (Mayunk, Oman) questioned why there isn’t an “Operation Freedom” for countries such as Pakistan, North Korea, and China.

A group of students supporting the war occasionally chanted phrases such as “Out with Saddam,” “USA,” “Support our troops,” and “Save Iraq.” They also sang portions of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” Some shouted questions, arguments against the speakers, and demands that someone supporting the war be allowed to use the microphone.

Organizers initially did not allow those supporting the war to use the microphone, but later relented.

Joseph Passman ’03 (Schnecksville, Pa.) noted that the effects of sanctions against Iraq have been terrible, but said inaction by the United Nations has led to slaughters in places like Bosnia. The war against Iraq is based on a just cause, he added.

The Teach-In began with a panel discussion by Miller; Katalin Fabian, assistant professor of government and law; William Carpenter, assistant professor of English; and Curlee Holton, associate professor of art.

Carpenter noted that language is used on both sides during wartime, focusing on supporters of the war who equate anti-war views with being anti-American and unsupportive of the U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Fabian drew attention to what she considered the strong use of force and heavy police presence against war protestors in the United States.

“This is incredible damage that has been done to this democracy,” she said, maintaining that the war could have been avoided if United Nations weapons inspectors had been allowed to continue in Iraq.

Jesus and the early Christians were pacifists, said Miller, who cited Biblical commands to love one’s enemies and “turn the other cheek.”

“That’s a strong challenge in this particular time,” he said. “How do we love our enemies? How do we define our enemies?”

The word “peace” is used 81 times in the New Testament, as opposed to “war,” which comes up ten times, said Miller. He described the conditions necessary to wage war under the Christian “Just War” tradition.

Holton expressed concern for the destruction of art and cultural artifacts in one of the world’s most ancient civilizations.

“Peace is probably the best way we can support our soldiers,” said Holton, noting that he served in the military.

A bit more than 100 people were in attendance at the Teach-In by the end of the panel discussion.

The rest of the schedule:
3 p.m. – History: Josh Sanborn, assistant professor of history
3:30 p.m. – Ecology: Robert Walls, part-time visiting lecturer in American Studies,
4 p.m. – Panel Discussion: Josh Miller, professor of government and law; James Lennertz, associate professor of government and law; Robin Rinehart, associate professor of religion
5 p.m. – Physics: Michael Stark, assistant professor of phyics
5:30 p.m. – War in Literature: Laura Walls, associate professor of English

Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55 and Stephen Lammers, Helen H.P. Manson Professor of the English Bible, debated Feb. 27 on whether the United States would be justified in starting a war with Iraq. The event was sponsored by Lafayette Communications Union in conjunction with Kirby Government and Law Society, International Affairs Club, College Democrats, College Republicans, and Students for Social Justice.

The purpose of Students for Social Justice is “to promote awareness concerning human rights and social justice issues in order to create and help facilitate positive social change. In short, we would like to change the world for the better,” according to Erin. The third founder of the group is religion major Jennifer Roberts ’03 (Royersford, Pa.)

Earlier this month, Students for Social Justice and Lafayette’s Legal Professions Program sponsored a talk by law professor Christine Cimini, a former staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, on “The Real Work Lawyers Do.”

Several Students for Social Justice members attended the National Conference on Organized Resistance Jan. 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

In December, the organization sponsored a debate between John McCartney, associate professor and head of government and law, and James DeVault, associate professor of economics and business, on the policies and actions of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Students for Social Justice organized a group to participate in the protest against war on Iraq in Washington, D.C. last semester. After the trip, the students organized a brown bag event to share their experiences and discuss related issues with the Lafayette community.

The group also held a workshop on environmental racism and environmental justice and helped organize Muhlenberg’s anti-war protest in mid-November, in which several Lafayette performers/speakers participated. It is an active member of the Lehigh Valley Peace Coalition.

Categorized in: Academic News