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New Jersey pastor fasts over situation in Iraq

 


 
New Jersey pastor fasts over situation in Iraq

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Jan. 21, 2004

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Concerned about human rights violations in Iraq, a United Methodist pastor from New Jersey has embarked upon an open-ended hunger fast.

The Rev. Frederick Boyle, 54, pastor of Titusville United Methodist Church, said he started the fast Jan. 10. as a way of bringing attention to the treatment of prisoners by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

In a Jan. 20 interview, Boyle told United Methodist News Service that he believes the coalition needs to "create a simple and quick process for families in Iraq to be able to find their loved ones who have been taken prisoner in the middle of the night." He stressed that the matter is not about military strategies but administrative procedures.

Christian Peacemaker Teams, an initiative of the Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and Quakers, has called attention to the problem of more than 13,000 people being held in detention centers around Iraq. It has urged the Coalition Provisional Authority to "sort out which have committed crimes and which have not" and to improve the treatment of detainees, especially in providing information to family members.

In Boyle's view, the coalition's treatment of the detainees "is contributing to the growing resentment and anger and, hence, violence in Iraq." U.S. soldiers then have to deal with that violence, he pointed out.

The pastor, who is drinking bottled water and an occasional cup of hot tea, said he had been considering a fast since early December to alert people to "the whole cycle of violence" in Iraq. Although he has embarked on three-day spiritual fasts, his longest previous period without food was seven days. Boyle said he would like to see progress made on the prisoner issue before he ends the current fast.

To achieve that progress, he hopes United Methodists and others will contact their state and federal legislators, as well as the media, about the need for improved procedures regarding detainees in Iraq.

As a member of a Christian Peacemaker Team visiting Iraq last winter, just before the U.S. bombing campaign began, Boyle said he could attest to the fact that the Iraqi people bear no ill will to the American people. "The compassion and the understanding and the love that the Iraqi people extended was actually quite surprising to me," he said of that experience.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.  News media can contact her at (212) 870-3803 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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