BY KATELYN FERRAL, Raleigh News & Observer
RALEIGH — A coalition of North Carolina faith and justice groups marked the passage of nine years in the U.S. war in Afghanistan on Thursday with a call for peace and a vigil for dead servicemen and Afghans.
N.C. Peace Action, along with the Muslim American Society and N.C. Council of Churches, held the vigil at Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh, and also rallied to redirect the money spent on war toward domestic initiatives.
“We must rethink the war in Afghanistan,” said David LaMotte, program associate for the N.C. Council of Churches, which represents more than 6,200 Christian congregations from 17 denominations throughout the state. “The cost is great, and the benefit is hard to find. It’s tragic stuff.”
More than 30 people attended the event, which was a part of an international effort by the national chapter of Peace Action, which calls itself the nation’s largest grass-roots peace group. The organization is hosting events nationwide through Sunday, and also Thursday held an event in Greensboro.
“The American presence there has not helped the Afghanistan people; it has worsened it,” said Khalilah Sabra, president of the Muslim American Society. “How long do civilians have to suffer?”
This is the first year the groups have marked the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, but after more troops were sent to the country earlier this year, they thought it was time to rally and send a message to legislators, said Betsy Crites, director of N.C. Peace Action.
“We’re seeing the futility of all the military efforts that are especially pronounced after the surge,” she said about the recent troop increase in Afghanistan. “It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the military approach is not working.”
N.C. Peace Action leaders invited participants to sign a letter to elected officials at the event, which outlined alternatives to war and some ideas for pulling out of Afghanistan. The group asked for legislators and political candidates to re-direct war funds to schools and other domestic issues.
So far, $100 billion has been spent on the war in Afghanistan, and North Carolina’s contribution is $3.2 billion, according to the group. That money could be used to build the country’s infrastructure and support organizations in America, Crites said.
“We believe this war is misguided and has unachievable goals,” she said.