Crusaders of many religions fight for peace and justice

Appproximately 20 protesters lined up in front of the U-M art museum on January 11 to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Appproximately 20 protesters lined up in front of the U-M art museum on January 11 to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The Ann Arbor-based group Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice counts among its members: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’i, Native Americans, and atheists – and they get along.

“From whatever religious or philosophical background, there is a shared call to be peacemakers, and we are able to better fulfill that call if we work together across our differences,” said director Chuck Warpehoski, 33, of Ann Arbor. “That collaboration is also part of peacemaking.”

ICPJ was founded in 1965 when a group of Unitarian, Christian and Jewish religious leaders came together to promote peace and social justice. Now the group includes about 750 members and six task forces focusing on specific concerns.

The six divisions are: NOW — NO Weapons, NO War; Hunger; Latin America; Racial and Economic Justice; Common Ground for Peace in Israel/Palestine and Climate Change and Earth Care.

In each task force there are about six members who design programming and make it all happen. Three paid staff members oversee these events. The staffers are also assisted by a group of interns.

Interns are not paid, but they have more set schedules and office hours like the staffers. Their work is mostly behind the scenes. Shahar Ben-Josef, 22, of Ann Arbor is an intern helping with the NOW and Common Ground task forces.        

“So, for example, when the Common Ground task force wants to have some sort of event, then you’ll have the task force members and the intern and Chuck, who is the staff member for the task force, all work together to pull together this event,” Ben-Josef said.

Sarah Jadrich, 23, of Ann Arbor, is another intern helping with the Racial and Social Justice group. Janrich is working on a master’s degree in social work at U-M and is required to do 16 hours per week of fieldwork. Her work for ICPJ not only expresses her passion, but also helps her toward a degree.

At noon on Wednesday, Jan. 11, about 20 members of the NOW task force of ICPJ assembled in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art. They were there to protest the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. Some of them were dressed in orange, symbolizing the orange jumpsuits worn by the detainees.

The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison. The Ann Arbor demonstration coincided with the “national day of action against Guantánamo” sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Protestors want the prisoners released or at least given a fair trial.        

Anne Garcia, an instructor in behavioral science at WCC, participates in a protest at U-M against the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Anne Garcia, an instructor in behavioral science at WCC, participates in a protest at U-M against the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Anne Garcia, a psychology instructor at WCC, was one of the demonstrators. Garcia has been a member of Michigan Peace Works, which is disbanding, but which has often co-sponsored events with ICPJ. She, like many of her companions, will now put her energies into ICPJ activities.

Garcia has also been the faculty adviser for Students for Peace and Justice at WCC. The group did not form this year because student commitment was too low.

Sporting a cervical collar, Garcia explained that she had recently been in a car accident and was forced to take a semester off from teaching. It has not diminished her zeal.

“People are being held without due justice, without habeas corpus, without a defense lawyer, without even being accused,” Garcia said of Guantánamo detainees. “Everyone can’t be guilty until proven innocent; it’s against the American system!”

Garcia’s passion for justice was shared by the other demonstrators.

“There are a lot of ways people can get involved,” director Warpehoski said. “Some people get involved being on one of those six task forces, helping us make things like this happen: coming up with the ideas, doing the outreach, doing the publicity, organizing logistics. Other people want to get involved in more behind-the-scenes levels, they do data entry or they help in website design or other tasks.”

Warpehoski emphasized that the staff tries hard to match the skills and interests of volunteers with the jobs they are assigned, “so everybody is getting something out of the engagement.”

Those who are burdened with concern about social injustice, racism, wars, environmental degradation, world hunger, and other such causes will find a way to make their voices heard through ICPJ.

To find more information, a list of upcoming events and to volunteer, visit icjp.net. There is a volunteer form under the heading, “Get Involved.” ICPJ staffers are available at (734) 663-1870.

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