They sang "Blowin' in the Wind," but the more than 300 Utahns gathered on the steps of the state Capitol were there to pray for peace in the Persian Gulf, not protest against a war.
The "Pray-in for Peace" was one of several demonstrations held in Salt Lake City and Provo Monday, the eve of the United Nations deadline authorizing force to oust Iraq from Kuwait.Approximately 400 students at Brigham Young University met Monday afternoon in a peace rally to discuss and think about how war in the Persian Gulf would affect each of them.
University of Utah students, joined by young mothers and elderly residents in the Union Theater, also bowed their heads in prayer Monday afternoon - asking for help "to look at our brothers and sisters in love and not over the barrels of guns, cannons and missiles."
Their "Pray-in," sponsored by the Campus Crusade for Christ, united Christians, Jews and Muslims was a plea for a peaceful solution to the pending war.
"We are all concerned about what is happening. But we can't do anything about it but pray. We are praying for peace and justice," said Janet Crowe. Her baby daughter, Cassandra, played happily on the floor, unaware of the world crisis.
Downtown in the Federal Building, protests took a different tone as angry Vietnam veterans voiced opposition to America's involvement in yet another war.
"I love my country, and I hate to say it, but I think my country is wrong," said one veteran who crowded into Sen. Orrin Hatch's office, demanding an end to the Persian Gulf Crisis.
But the veterans' call for peace fell only on the ears of the senator's assistant; Hatch was still in Washington, D.C., Monday. His absence, however, didn't soften the veterans' criticism of the senator's vote Saturday to support the use of force against Iraq.
"We don't want to see our men and women come home in body bags. I relive Vietnam every day of my life," said an emotional Lupe Espinoza, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran.
Prior to entering the Federal Building, a small group of citizens held hands, sang songs and held signs advocating peace.
"We hope to let people and politicians know that the public doesn't want a war," said Larry Chadwick, who led about 50 people into Utah's Congressional offices.
Emotions also ran high at the Capitol where speakers representing a variety of faiths and beliefs advised the students, young families, professionals and grandparents assembled to seek peace through prayer.
The organizer of the nearly hourlong program, Park City psychotherapist and attorney Lynne Finney, and others called for positive efforts for peace rather than protest against America's involvement in the Persian Gulf.
"We're not anti-government or anti-American. This is for peace," guitarist Curtis Willey said before leading the crowd in an emotional rendition of "America the Beautiful."
Some members of the crowd did carry signs with anti-war messages, including, "No Blood for Oil" and "Sanctions Not Sons and Daughters." A few signs were decorated with peace symbols.
Ralph Seiler of Bountiful, stood on the steps with a small sign pinned to his shirt. It read, "WWII Vet Against The War." Seiler, who has a 20-year-old granddaughter serving in Saudi Arabia, said he also opposed the Vietnam War.
Most of the crowd just listened quietly to the prayers and thoughts offered by an Episcopalian chaplain, a Lutheran minister, a Catholic vicar general and a poet who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"We are filled with terror. Fear keeps us awake at night. We feel tossed between the rationale for war and the rationale for waiting," said JoAnn Leach, the Episcopal chaplain at the U.
"We pray that war be averted, lives be spared and hearts be softened," Leach said. The somber crowd softly repeated the response, "O God, deliver us."
Later, their voices lifted while singing "Blowing in the Wind." Copies of the lyrics to the song best known as an anti-war anthem were distributed, but most of the crowd knew the words by heart.
Guitarist Willey said the message of the song hadn't changed since the days of the protests against the Vietnam War. "We're going to get the same songs and the same actions until we understand what peace is all about," he said.
Ken Wilhelm said he and his wife, Wendy, brought their children to the gathering to help teach them about peace. At just a month old, his son Clay was probably too young to understand.
Wilhelm said he tried to describe the impending conflict and the need to stop it to his 3-year-old daughter, Lindsey, by telling her, "We just don't want war. We want peace."
Warner Woodworth, a professor in BYU's organizational behavior department, said he was impressed with the participation at BYU.
"I remember 20 years ago when I was attending BYU and we were in a war and no one knew anything about it," Woodworth said. This is quite a change.
Marti Jones, one of the graduate students who organized the rally, said she and the other students believe their opinions and feelings mean something and will make a difference.
Woodworth agreed. "We can make a difference and be a part of the decisions."