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Soldiers killed in Iraq honored Vigil also remembers civilians who died

With 3,011 U.S. soldiers killed so far in the war in Iraq, there were too many names to read in one night's observance. But the 43 dead from Western New York were offered at a somber cadence Sunday.

". . . Robert V. Derenda, 42, Cheektowaga; Christopher W. Dill, 32, Tonawanda; Jason L. Dunham, 22, Scio; David Evans Jr., 18, Buffalo; Cari Anne Gasiewicz, 28, Depew; Jeffrey LeBrun, 23, Buffalo . . ."

Throughout, candles were lighted in the Montante Cultural Center at Canisius College for all the Iraqi war dead, including the tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians killed either at the hands of foreign militaries or in ethnic violence.

"To date, the war has cost -- in dollars -- over $378 billion," said Bill Marx, the regional coordinator for the Catholic Pax Christi peace movement and an organizer of Sunday night's call for peace called "Peace Yearnings."

When measuring the cost in lives, he told his audience, you need to consider the more than 3,000 American military personnel killed with the hundreds of thousands of uncounted Iraqis, military and civilian alike.

The observance was an "intercultural presentation," and it strived to include every corner of Western New York's religious community. There were readings from clerics or followers of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Iroquois culture.

Two choirs harmonized. A crowd of nearly 200 sang along. Then in the middle of these emotions, the organizers inserted blunt photographs of the war, most taken in the first days and weeks after the invasion in March 2003.

They had been assembled as a one-year retrospective shown to a similar gathering at Canisius College in March 2004. The photos showed U.S. troops pushing to Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers surrendering, a gravely wounded child in one photo, a smiling child in another.

The observance also was put together by the Interfaith Peace Network, the Canisius College Campus Ministry and the WNY Peace Center. An aim was to turn up the decibel level on the peace movement so federal lawmakers cannot miss it.

Write letters, suggested William Privett of Pax Christi. Register with the pro-peace organizations, he said, or sign a vow of nonviolence opposing the "devaluation" of human life, or travel to a peace rally in Washington set for Jan. 27. Or do all of the above.

So what did "Peace Yearnings" accomplish Sunday?

"At a recent meeting I had with the executive director of Pax Christi USA, we asked him what's the most significant thing that we can do in the Buffalo area to make a difference?" Privett said.

"His quote was, begin to bring people together across cultural lines, across religious lines, across ethnic lines, across every sector of the City of Buffalo. And our legislators cannot help but notice our call for peace."


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