More than 2,000 Southlanders are expected to gather at the Disneyland Hotel on Saturday as part of an international event involving millions of participants from more than 150 countries who will offer prayers on behalf of world leaders and troops stationed in the Persian Gulf.
“This is an emergency prayer summit of Christians worldwide,” said Carolynn Guthrie Barela, executive director of Redeem America, the Orange-based organization sponsoring the International Call to Prayer.
“We know we have to pray for God’s intervention into the affairs of men. The events of (Wednesday) make it even more urgent,” she said, referring to the failed talks between U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz.
As national religious leaders, local political figures and other participants assemble in the Marina Ballroom at the hotel, millions of others worldwide are expected to gather to pray at the same time, in countries ranging from South Africa to South Korea.
More than 1 million people are expected to participate in South Korea alone, where the prayer convocation will begin at 4 a.m., Barela said.
In Southern California, the event is set for 10 a.m., with the hour of prayer slated between 11 a.m. and noon. According to Barela, telephone contact will be made during the first hour with participants in other countries.
Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter said the United Nations’ Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait lent the event a greater sense of urgency.
“The deadline is getting closer. The more people that can join hands and sincerely pray, ‘Please don’t let (war) happen,’ the better,” said Hunter, who will attend Saturday’s gathering.
“I think a lot of people believe in prayer,” he added. “It works for me.”
Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) was scheduled to attend but had to return to Washington for the debate surrounding a possible declaration of war, an aide to Dannemeyer said.
Barela said the idea for the hour of prayer originated with her husband, Jim, who was concerned about restrictions on religious expression imposed on troops stationed in the Persian Gulf.
“Out of that came the idea that we really need to call the church to prayer. I said, ‘Well, the church is worldwide,’ and Jim replied, ‘You better get busy,’ ” Barela said.
Barela, 48, of Costa Mesa, then called contacts in Washington whom she knew from her former job as a producer for Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” television show.
“The idea spread like a prairie fire. We would contact one person in one country, and then we’d receive a fax from them later saying, ‘We have 50 churches on board,’ ” Barela said.
The response from Britain, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand has been especially overwhelming, she said.
However, Barela pointed out that the event is not strictly a prayer for peace.
“We’re praying for God’s intervention, but we’re not peaceniks,” she said. “It sounds like the war drums are beating louder today than ever. We’re not joining the groups that say we can’t go to war whatever happens.”