Candlelight vigil heald to honor iraq casualties

By Gus Bode

Maggie Jihan silently walked across the empty circle to place a single candle in its center.

Just as silently, she walked back to where her two daughters stood with candles of their own. She picked up a sign bearing the words “1,000 dead” and stared across the circle.

The Interfaith Center held a candlelight vigil Thursday in remembrance of the 1,000 soldiers who have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

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The vigils were promoted by Win Without War, a coalition of national organizations that opposes militarization in foreign policy. According to its website, the coalition supports grassroots movements across the nation, including organizing more than 1,000 similar vigils Thursday.

Will Major, assistant director of the Interfaith Center, said his organization sponsored the vigil because its members believe in the sanctity of human life. Major said that in the long run, vigils and other forms of protest could make a difference and bring the world closer to peace.

“We do things like this to express solidarity – and hope that it will lead to more peaceful kinds of solutions,” Major said.

Sorel Kunath, a senior studying forestry from Rockford, said he attended to pay his respects to the dead. Kunath said he does not agree with the politics involved in the war and said the government is ignoring protestors.

“I am here to support the cause of peace and trying to bring everyone back home,” Kunath said.

Others expressed their views more silently as a newspaper bearing faces of those lost in Iraq and a stick of incense joined the solitary candle in the center of the ring. Eighteen community members surrounded the shrine.

“I think that it’s important that people of conscience who support or protest something to stand up and show their faces,” Jihan said. “I think that encourages more people to think about things and to do something on behalf of what they believe.”

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Margie Parker, a Carbondale resident and member of the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois, said her organization does just that. The group has been standing up since December 2001 with weekly vigils protesting the war.

Parker said the Iraq war is about revenge, and that revenge does not honor the dead.

Despite the small gathering, Major said he believed the vigil could have a positive effect. He said he did not expect a large crowd because the event was planned in less than 24 hours.

“It’s not an easy task,” he said. “It’s actually kind of lonely. But at least it’s a way to start.”

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