Groups Present Both Sides of the War Story
Published on Monday, September 26, 2005 by the Richmond Register (Kentucky)
Groups Present Both Sides of the War Story
by Bill Robinson
Two groups of local citizens came to the Madison County Courthouse Saturday night to expressed differing opinions about the war in Iraq.

Three families who reside on Curtis Pike invited their friends and others of like mind to join them in front of the courthouse for a "prayer peace vigil."

Sixteen adults and four children gathered in a circle, lit candles and participated in a responsive reading that began with:

"Listen to the words of Jesus Christ ... I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

The children held up signs that read "Share God's Peace," "Love your neighbor" and "Eye for an eye no more."

Vigil participants read responsively from a nine-page booklet.

"O God, make us part of your peace moving through our nation," one member read aloud. "Bringer of peace, hear our prayer," the others responded.

"We pray for those in our armed forces, and for all soldiers," the group's prayer continued. "Protect them in mind, body and spirit, not just from weapons, but also from hatred and lies."

The group also prayed for "those who disagree with us, as well as those who misunderstand, misinterpret or despise us."

As darkness fell, those in the circle each lit a candle and sang a hymn entitled "Shalom," the Hebrew word for peace.

One of the organizers, the Rev. Andy Rutrough, pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, said the group felt compelled to make a public statement as Christians because "Christianity has been portrayed as supportive of the current U.S. warlike foreign policy and those behind it."

Rutrough was not participating on behalf of his church, he pointed out. "Some in my congregation agree with what I'm doing here tonight," he said. "Others in my congregation disagree."

The "witness of Jesus, was a witness against violence," he said. "If a Christian goes to war, he should do so with fear and trembling and only as a last resort," he said. "We should never go to war on flimsy evidence or with an attitude that demonizes other human beings." The current war in Iraq violated both of those principles, he said.

As the group went about its recitation at the courthouse entrance, another group, consisting of nine military veterans and two of their wives, lined the sidewalk along Main Street holding American flags,

"We're here to protect them and their right to protest," said Tim Beardsley, a Vietnam veteran wearing a T-shirt that read "Land of the Free Because of the Brave."

"We're here to show that's there's another side to this issue," said Bill Palahunich, a member of the 40 & 8 veterans' club.

"Any peace demonstration during a time of war aids the enemy," said Richard Bachman.

"There's not a man here who doesn't want peace," said Jack Ditmer, a member of the Marine Corps League. "We've all been there," he said referring to war.

"There are no atheists in this group," Ditmer added. "There are no atheists in foxholes," said another veteran.

The nine flags the veterans carried came from the flag collection of John Burch, a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. His wore his Purple Heart award and numerous other military medals on his jacket.

"We had a nice long conversation with (those in the peace vigil) before they started," Burch said. "However, our views are such that never the twain shall meet."

"Pacifism doesn't end wars, it causes wars," Burch said. As for loving the enemy Burch said, "They declared jihad (holy war) on us, not vice versa."

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