About 100 Roman Catholic nuns, dressed in white blouses and black pants to symbolize peace and death, gathered in Brentwood on Saturday for a protest and prayer session against a U.S. war against Iraq.
The Los Angeles Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, in their first-ever demonstration, held signs reading, "Honk 4 Peace," while thousands of protesters across the country also rallied against a possible war. Nuns from other orders marched in Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco.
"We can no longer ignore the immoral, illegal and unjust war that President Bush is proposing," said Sister Catherine Marie Kreta, an organizer of the Brentwood protest. "We deplore what Saddam Hussein does, but we don't want to assassinate him."
Wearing straw hats and visors, the nuns assembled under a hot sun at Sunset Boulevard and Church Lane. Some carried their signs to the overpass of the San Diego Freeway. They were delighted by the beeps, waves and cheers from motorists in BMW convertibles, Jaguars, ice cream vans and garbage trucks.
But not everyone was supportive. A man in a Lexus yelled, "What has peace ever done for us?"
Another cursed the nuns, and raised his middle finger.
"I haven't seen the finger in a while," Kreta said. "It's OK. We live in a diverse society."
The nuns ranged in age from 30 to 90, and many were frail. One sat in a wheelchair with a protest sign in her lap. Organizers distributed water bottles and lawn chairs.
Sister Ellen Joseph, 80, made peace signs with her fingers when drivers honked. "We've always prayed for peace, and talked about peace," she said. "War would mean too much suffering, too much violence. We don't want our country to be the aggressors. Prayer can do a lot, but we have to ... remind the people."
Sister Jeanne Cools, 68, said many nuns in her order had wanted to organize against the Vietnam War, but "it was more of an individual stand in those days. Our lives were very solitary."
The order's mission is to achieve "unity and reconciliation," said Sister Kathy Stein, 53. "Going to war goes against those ideals, and we felt like we needed to speak out."
She believes the war would be more about obtaining oil than keeping America safe. "There are so many regular community people in the U.S. who are against this war, and we feel we are representative of those people," Stein said.
The sisters then offered a prayer, led by Sister Maureen O'Connor, who said over a bullhorn: "We are women who are committed to peace and nonviolence within ourselves and in our world."