The Christian Peace Witness taking place in Washington, D.C., last weekend drew the Rev. Bryan Smith and his 15-year-old daughter, Julia, along with a number of others opposed to U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.
The Smiths, Canton residents, flew to the U.S. capital Thursday night, accompanied by fellow Geneva Presbyterian Church members Lindsey Anderson, a student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, and Adam Delezenne, whose fiancee is enrolled at McCormick. Bryan Smith, pastor at Geneva in Canton, observed Christians across the spectrum of the faith at the protest.
"It was something I felt I needed to do," Smith said. "For me, the Christian faith is one that requires engagement."
The protesters met Friday at the National Cathedral for worship and walked to Lafayette Park across from the White House. Earlier that day, they had training on nonviolent resistance which he found helpful.
As an American, Smith believes the war has made things worse and has not resolved terrorism. More than 3,000 U.S. service personnel have died, and up to half a million Iraqi civilians are dead.
Smith, 46, questions national resources devoted to the war. "People hit by Katrina still can't get their homes rebuilt. The way our nation uses its resources greatly disturbs me."
He's also concerned about the president being identified as Christian and that conveying the idea the war is just.
He's also working out his own faith and convictions, noting Jesus didn't condone violence. Smith had known those teachings but is learning to take more seriously how to love enemies and not destroy them.
"That's the obligation Christ lays upon us" to oppose evil without violence.
There was a separate protest in which participants met at the Lincoln Memorial and marched to the Pentagon. In Smith's general group, some were arrested for refusing to disperse while praying.
He found the event organized and planned well, so didn't worry about his daughter's safety. Smith's not sure such protests have a great impact in the political arena.
There's no current U.S. draft, he noted, so average middle class people aren't seeing their sons and daughters impacted. Voters did sent a statement in the 2006 election, he said.
His hope is that more Christians "might be willing to speak out more in their churches. I think there's been a lot of fear used." People worry about being labeled unpatriotic, he said, but he'd like to see peaceful, rational discussions on the war.
"I'm glad I got to experience that. It was really exciting," Julia Smith said. "It was interesting to be part of a huge group of people." She could feel the energy.
"It's not a just war," said the younger Smith, a home-schooler who recently wrote a paper on the Iraq war. "We didn't have a just cause for going into Iraq. It's just not just"