Peace Coalition to Hold Service, Conference, Confront New Post-Election Challenges
By Donald Gilpin
Looking to tackle the challenges of the post-election period, the 42nd Annual Conference and Multifaith Service for Peace, sponsored by the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), along with 35 co-sponsoring religious and civic groups in the region, will take place on Sunday, November 13.
Rabbi David Saperstein, called the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine, will deliver the Multifaith Service sermon at 11 a.m. in the Princeton University Chapel, and in the afternoon he will be joined by climate justice movement leader and New Yorker writer Bill McKibben, and social justice advocate and co-founder of the CODEPINK peace group Medea Benjamin for a Conference for Peace on Zoom from 2 to 4 p.m.
“These are trying and troubling times,” said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the CFPA. “It’s good this event is happening so soon after Election Day, especially if there is a concerning outcome on Election Day. People are going to want to be somewhere together in solidarity.”
He also noted that the service and conference would encourage participants ”to be more empowered to effectively advocate for peace policies.”
Faith leaders from a range of major world religions will co-lead the morning service, which is free and open to the public. Participants in the afternoon conference must pre-register at peacecoalition.org by noon on Friday to receive a Zoom participant link. Registration is $10 per person, free for students and limited-income individuals.
Saperstein, who was director and chief legal counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and subsequently served as U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom during the Obama administration, has advocated on numerous social justice issues. His November 13 sermon, titled “Lingering in Sodom,” will relate to Dr. Martin Luther King’s theme of “the urgency of now,” said Moore. “It’s an intriguing paradigm that he’s going to draw.”
Moore continued, “Certain things like the climate catastrophe and the danger of nuclear war — those are urgent and the kind of challenges that have to be addressed immediately. You can’t linger. I think Rabbi Saperstein is going to talk about that. As people of faith we need to be ready to respond quickly.”
Moore, who interrupted our November 4 phone interview to take a call from a local Jewish leader in the wake of a threat to New Jersey synagogues, emphasized the importance of taking action quickly on a variety of multifaith peace initiatives.
McKibben, founder of the first global grassroots climate campaign, 350.org, will join the conference on Sunday afternoon, connecting by Zoom, probably from Egypt where he has been attending the U.N. Global Climate Conference.
“McKibben is an icon in the effort to respond to the global climate catastrophe,” said Moore. Author of more than a dozen books about the environment since 1989, McKibben, the Schumann Distinguished Professor in Residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, has recently founded a new group, Third Act, seeking to mobilize senior citizens around environmental and other issues.
“He’s basically saying, ‘Hey, your retirement years is a great time for you to pick up on activism. You can find it very fulfilling doing these kinds of things,’” said Moore.
Benjamin, author of 10 books, most recently War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, co-authored with Nicholas J.S. Davies, will be speaking about that book and the war in Ukraine. She was the co-founder of the fair trade advocacy group Global Exchange and has been described as “one of America’s most committed — and most effective — fighters for human rights” by New York Newsday and “one of the high-profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times.
Benjamin has participated with CFPA in several events in the past, speaking about her earlier books on drone warfare and on conflict in the Middle East.
Moore discussed post-election prospects for the country and particularly for the faith community. “We don’t know for sure what sort of political terrain we are going to be navigating after the election, but it’s not looking terribly hopeful,” he said. “But we in the faith community take a longer view. You go through many ups and downs. We don’t give up just because things look grim at a certain point.”
He continued, “A lot of people get cynical and give up, but one of the great strengths of having been based in the faith tradition is you’ve got community. You’ve got the tradition of saying we’re hanging in for the long haul, confident that our efforts will continue whichever way the election goes. We’re planning events past Election Day, and this is one of them.”