Former battlefield in US will be site of prayers for peace

At a place called Antietam, 23,000 soldiers died in the bloodiest day of the American Civil War. More than 150 years later, 20 different religious traditions will gather on this battlefield in the state of Maryland on 21 September to share prayers and songs of peace. 

The 2012 International Day of Prayer for Peace will involve Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Baha'I and is one of the hundreds of ways people in various regions of the world are observing the day, according to a news release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). 

In Mexico City, a coalition called Movement for Peace with Dignity and Justice is bringing civil society organizations together for 10 days of action and prayer leading up to 21 September. 

In Adelaide, Australia, local media personalities and members of parliament will give short talks at a community peace fair organized by local parishes and Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia. 

In Davao City, southern Philippines, civic organizations are staging a day-long Peace Fair celebrating six paths to peace, namely: cultivating inner peace, dismantling a culture of war, living with justice and compassion, building intercultural respect and solidarity, promoting human rights and living in harmony with the earth. 

Each year the WCC calls for this day of prayer for peace in conjunction with the UN-sponsored International Day of Peace. 

Some 160 parishes and related groups are joining On Earth Peace, a Church of the Brethren ministry in the U.S., to pray for ceasefires and other halts to violence. Participants are from 15 denominations in 10 countries. The Church of South India is praying for solidarity with the Palestinians, "peace with our earth", and building relations between Christians, Hindus and Muslims -- three issues brought home from the WCC International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in May 2011 in Jamaica. 

In keeping with the IEPC and the Ecumenical Call to Just Peace, the WCC is encouraging prayers for the many dimensions of peace -- economic, ecological, social, political and military. 

In Ibadan, Nigeria, representatives of the Christian Council of Nigeria are joining local seminarians in an interdenominational service organized by a network called Churches in Action for Peace and Development. 

In Santiago, Chile, a city peace forum is holding an inter-religious service at a church dedicated to St Francis of Assisi. 

Participants are also sharing prayers and plans via Facebook and Twitter. The WCC is posting prayers received by email. 

Participants in the U.S. are interpreting the ceasefire theme in different ways. 

Three congregations in Auburn, Indiana, will send out groups into the community to pray for each house, business, church and person they encounter. 

A congregation in Colorado near the sites of two shootings -- at a high school in Columbine and the recent movie theatre massacre in Aurora -- has erected 15 identical crosses in a park, one for each victim in the shootings at Columbine, including the two shooters. 

In Ohio, the Dayton International Peace Museum will celebrate 21 September by burning the mortgage it has recently paid off and discussing how to bring "inner peace and outer peace to neighbours and ourselves, our community, and our world." Christians, Muslims, Baha'is, Buddhists, Jews and Sikhs will take part. 

First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Manassas, Virginia, is holding a community interfaith prayer service to seek what the parish calls "divine guidance in the face of international hostility, political confrontation, local intolerance, domestic abuse, teenage bullying and personal struggle." 

A consortium of 300 congregations and faith-based organizations in South Bend, Indiana, will host a community breakfast and a lunch-hour community prayer meeting at the local Sikh temple. 

"I have signed up to pray for peace in Calgary but I do not see any formal plans," one electronic message said. "I am only one, but I will pray and God will hear me."

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