Friday, April 28, 2006

Christians Protest for Peace in Princeton

Meg Foxvog, June Brafman, Samuel Foxvog, Jim Foxvog, Jim Fitz, and Larry Brafman hold signs in front of the Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton on a recent sunny day.

by Todd Kuzma

PRINCETON – Recent public opinion polls show a rapid decline in support for the war in Iraq, but one group has been publicly proclaiming their opposition for over four years. If you pass by the Bureau County Courthouse in downtown Princeton around lunch time on any Wednesday, you are likely to see a small group of people holding signs reading “Honk for Peace,” “Trust God, Not Weapons,” and “Whom Would Jesus Bomb.”

Members of Plow Creek Mennonite Church in Tiskilwa originally organized the peace vigil in January 2002 after the US invasion of Afghanistan. Plow Creek Member Jim Fitz said that they wanted to “confront people with the reality that war is going on and get them to pray for peace, one of the most powerful things we can do.”

The vigil became a weekly event, originally on Tuesdays but moved to Wednesdays to eliminate a conflict with the operation of Plow Creek’s farmers market. Eventually, members of other churches began to participate. These included Willow Springs Mennonite Church in Tiskilwa and Clear Creek Quaker Meeting in McNabb.

While Quakers and Mennonites are traditional “peace churches,” where peace activism is common, the vigil has also attracted folks like June and Larry Brafman of Peru. The Brafmans attend several Catholic churches in the LaSalle-Peru area. “It’s the spiritual, moral thing to do,” explained June Brafman.

Larry Brafman originally heard about the vigil from an internet posting by Plow Creek Member Jim Foxvog. “There it was, ‘Princeton, Illinois, every week, in front of the courthouse.’ ” Brafman recalled of the posting.

Foxvog is a regular at the weekly vigil, often attending with his wife Meg and son Samuel. He reports that the group has generally been well received in Princeton. Passersby offer encouragement or a honk of the horn in response to their “Honk for Peace” sign. However, not all responses are positive. “Sometimes, someone will yell, ‘Get a job!’ And this is when I’m working sixty hour weeks!” Foxvog remarked, chuckling.

Jim Fitz recalled meeting a veteran of the Iraq war who was quite hostile at first, but stayed to talk with the group for a while. “He eventually said that he agreed with our sign that reads, ‘Bring US Troops Home, Bring in the UN,’ ” Fitz said.

Starting such dialog is one of the goals of the vigil. “We want to get them to think about the spiritual beliefs behind the vigil,” explained Jim Foxvog adding that they would like to “break the stereotype that all Christians are right-wing.”

“Peace is pro-life, too,” Larry Brafman added.

Foxvog says that the group tries to keep its message nonpartisan. He noted that while participants all hold their own views, “An ‘Impeach Bush’ sign would be inappropriate.”

Fitz believes that it is also important to show support for the troops, and some of the most memorable responses the vigil has received have been from relatives of those serving in Iraq. “We’ve made relationships with two families that have soldiers in Iraq, and they support our efforts,” Fitz said. A woman with a daughter in Iraq stopped by to tell Fitz, “Keep up what you’re doing,” while another woman whose husband was driving trucks in Iraq wanted to hug everyone in the vigil.

Brafman explained, “We just want to make people think. If they are for the war, maybe they will think about it. A lot of minds have been changed, not necessarily because of us, but we hear a lot more honks.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what these fine people is wonderful and to be commended. They are demostrating peacefully for the cause of peace. They are obviously committed to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

7:51 PM  

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