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Group calls for troop pullout

An interreligious group of peace advocates Friday called upon the Western New York congressional delegation to work toward pulling United States troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.

The Interfaith Peace Network delivered a letter and 900 signatures to the local offices of Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence; and Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport; and Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, noting that "all great faiths call us to peace" and that "our faiths call us to be peacemakers."

About 25 members of the group gathered Friday afternoon in Cathedral Park at Main and Church streets to air their concerns.

Members of the local peace network, which has consistently opposed the war from the start, said that the only way to end the constant sectarian violence -- marked by devastating car bombs and other acts of terror -- was to get U.S troops out of Iraq.

"While the war may not end by our decision, U.S. withdrawal is the necessary first step," said the Rev. John R. Long, a Presbyterian minister.

Dozens of area religious leaders from a variety of faith traditions -- including Christian, Muslim, Jewish -- signed the letter to the congressional delegation.

All of the faiths represented through the network's letter "in some way or another" invite people into a celebration of peace and respect for each other, said Bishop J. Michael Garrison of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.

It was important to stand up as people of faith and call for an end to the war because "this war in particular is very much driven by religion," said Long.

The president has used religious terminology to justify the war, he said.

"We're basically saying, 'These are illegitimate religious responses,' " Long said.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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