Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness had its beginning in 2003-04 as protest and positive peace witness against the Iraq war.
Multiple initiatives came together quickly, ecumenically, to form LIPW. In early 2003, 330 people signed on to a statement against the war that was run in Lancaster’s newspaper. (LINK IF POSSIBLE)
In late 2003 there was a forum at a Friends Meeting with addresses by Dr. John Lapp, Mennonite; Steve Baumgartner, Friends; Dr. Dale Brown, Church of the Brethren. This was followed by several other exploratory events and conversations.
On April 18, 2004, Friends Meeting of Lancaster hosted a forum in which Dr. Donald B. Kraybill called for a federation of church groups to be organized into a peace organization. By June 6, 2004, a core group of 14 persons from six denominations met and took action to form The Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness.
Six months later, on October 10, 2004, Dr. Donald Kraybill spoke to a large Forum held at Friends Meeting. His address was entitled, “Pursue Peace-Peacefully, Truthfully, Hopefully.” Kraybill developed three themes:
First, Peacemaking is at the core of our Christian faith.
Second, Christian Peacemaking has implications for public policy.
Third, God calls us to Pursue Peace–Peacefully, Truthfully, Hopefully.
Kraybill’s presentation set the tone for the first decade of LIPW’s work.
“The vast majority of Christian theologians and Christian ethicists agree that peacemaking is central to the Christian Gospel. Catholics and many of the major Protestant denominations, have statements supporting a just peace as a principle of Christian faith, including the Presbyterian who have so graciously welcome us here today.”
Spokespeople gave witness out of their traditions. But the movement was self-described as a gathering of “peace-minded” people from pacifist and just war traditions, diverse theologically, who joined in their search for peace in the Middle East.
Over the first few years LIPW maintained a focus on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East, but the vision broadened for “a secure, sustainable and just world for all of God’s creation.”
LIPW gained recognition in the churches, March 30, 2005, when Jim Wallace, of Sojourners, addressed the churches of Lancaster County in a Lancaster Mennonite auditorium packed with nearly 1400 people. Wallace called on the churches to address issues of unjust war, mass military and civilian injuries/death, and the cumulative poverty sustained and created by the war.
He declared that cutting programs for the poor, while offering tax cuts for the wealthy, with bloating expenditure for war was “poor governance” and “immoral.”
In September 2005, LIPW joined with and promoted the “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit organized by American Friends Service Committee on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College. The exhibit included a pair of boots honoring each U.S. military casualty (1,873 as of Aug. 25.)
LIPW formed a board of directors of 12-16 members and on Aug. 1, 2005 was registered as a 501(c) 3 organization with a statement of by-laws.
To date, supporting networks are not formally organized but the mailing list includes more than a thousand persons around Lancaster County. The current mission statement reads as follows, “Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness is a grassroots association dedicated to promoting biblical values of justice, care of creation, peace and nonviolent solutions to conflict.”
Noteworthy events and speakers sponsored by LIPW include:
- Dr. Hossein Mousavian, Research Scholar at Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs
- John Dear, former Priest, SJ, recipient of received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 2010
- Kate Gould, Legislative Associate for Middle East Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Out of those early years, the group has grown into a diverse organization that continues to address war and militarism, their effect on society, and works to engage in conversations, events and advocacy that promote peace—domestically, nationally, and internationally- as a viable, hopeful, option.