Peace Coalition to Hold Conference, Multifaith Service for Peace on Nov. 12
By Donald Gilpin
Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, and Lewiston, Maine — sad to say, the timing for the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action’s (CFPA) 44th Annual Conference and Multifaith Service for Peace could not be more appropriate.
“With two hot wars underway; mass shootings in the U.S. averaging two per day; and nuclear weapon build-ups planned by the U.S., Russia, and China; this is an incredibly important period to educate the public about peace issues,” said CFPA Executive Director the Rev. Robert Moore. “I encourage all interested people to attend the Multifaith Service and/or Conference for Peace to be more empowered to advocate for peace policies more effectively.”
Sponsored by the CFPA along with 38 area religious and civic groups, the November 12 event will feature Archbishop John C. Wester, leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, preaching at the Multifaith Service for Peace at 11 a.m. in the Princeton University Chapel, followed from 1:30 to 4 p.m. by a hybrid Conference for Peace at Christ Congregation, 50 Walnut Lane. Conference speakers will include Princeton University Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus Frank von Hippel; social justice advocate and co-founder of the women-led peace group Code Pink Medea Benjamin; and March For Our Lives Senior Policy Associate Elena Perez; as well as Wester.
Moore described Wester as “an ardent proponent of global nuclear weapons abolition” ever since his visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2017. “It’s a transforming experience,” said Moore, who visited the two Japanese cities in 1980 when he was working on nuclear disarmament on the national level.
“In Hiroshima they have an A-bomb museum,” he added. “You come out of there and you can hardly speak. The horror is so terrible to witness.”
In January 2022 Wester issued a pastoral letter, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament,” which is available on the CFPA website at peacecoalition.org. “The archbishop basically says that the only way to protect humanity from ultimately being destroyed in a nuclear holocaust is to get rid of nuclear weapons,” Moore noted.
He added that there are three Roman Catholic co-sponsors for the event and that faith leaders from a wide range of major world religions will be co-leading the Multifaith Service.
“Avoiding Nuclear War with Russia and China” will be the topic of von Hippel’s presentation during the afternoon conference. Frequently quoted in national media, von Hippel is the co-founder of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner, a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and formerly assistant director of the White House Science Advisor’s Office.
“If you want to know anything at all about nuclear weapons, any technical detail, he has it in an instant, like the back of his hand,” said Moore. “We’re so lucky to have him as an accessible local resource for us.”
Benjamin, “one of America’s most committed — and most effective — fighters for human rights,” according to New York Newsday, and “one of the high-profile leaders of the peace movement,” according to the Los Angeles Times, is the author of 10 books, including, most recently, War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, co-authored with Nicolas J.S. Davies.
“Knowledgeable, smart, a great activist,” said Moore. “Benjamin doesn’t just talk about it. She’s been arrested I don’t know how many times, but she’s always nonviolent. She’s talking truth to power, just as the ancient prophets of Israel did.”
Speaking on the issue of gun violence prevention, an issue that CFPA has focused on since 1993 (before she was born), Elena Perez was a NJ chapter leader of March for Our Lives, state director, mid-Atlantic regional organizing director, then senior policy associate. Currently a senior at Rutgers-Newark, she advocates for commonsense gun laws as well as raising awareness about mental health, especially for young people.
“It’s really exciting to have a young leader speaking to us about this,” said Moore. He pointed out New Jersey’s progress in establishing the second strongest gun safety laws in the country and the strongest assault weapons ban in the country, but noted the dire consequences of so many assault weapons being easy to get and widely used throughout the country.
In commenting on CFPA’s peacemaking efforts, Moore emphasized the importance of their “diplomacy not war” campaign, which applies to trouble spots around the world. “Diplomacy has to be our primary tool to keep peace,” he said. “Military force is going to fail and come back to bite us. We saw that in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where we thought we could use military force to impose our will on those countries.”
He continued, “We need more diplomacy. We need to do a lot more in terms of beefing up our diplomacy as a means of preventing wars before they start, and even if they’ve already started, as the Israel-Hamas war has, we need to maximize the use of diplomacy to end it as soon as possible.” Moore noted that von Hippel, Benjamin, and Wester would all be presenting valuable insights on the importance of diplomacy.
The November 12 morning Multifaith Service in the University Chapel is free and open to the public. For the afternoon conference at Christ Congregation, registration is required at bit.ly/2023Conf4Peace.