Amidst celebrations of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, one group of Southern California activists are marching for peace this Palm Sunday under claims to be putting the holy day "back in the streets where it began."
The Palm Sunday Peace Parade will be holding its eighth annual march today in Pasadena, Calif. to advocate for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Organized by the Mennonite Church's Peace & Justice Academy and local church groups, the parade will march from a historically marginalized neighborhood in the city's northern region to its economic center at the Paseo Colorado Mall, where the group will, "sing songs, pray and proclaim God's peace."
The group says that their march mimics that of Jesus' journey from the "margins of his society" in Galilee to the economic center in Jerusalem, adding that "economic injustice and war go hand-in-hand."
"We will witness against the powers and authorities of this world that make war against God's poor ones, and witness for the in-breaking Reign of God, a reign of justice and peace," the group says on its website, adding that they wish to "reveal the foolishness of war and the wisdom of God which is foolishness to the world."
The parade, which began in 2003 after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, follows only a week after the war's 7th anniversary, although the event drew little attention due to the health care vote in Washington.
Nearly 98,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in Iraq, while other foreign countries have withdrawn.
The war has claimed 4,386 U.S. soldiers to date since the invasion's launch under former President George W. Bush's administration.
In February 2009, President Obama announced that combat troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by August 31 and that all soldiers would be leaving the country by 2011.
Ten months later, Obama announced an escalation of the U.S.'s involvement in the war in Afghanistan, saying that an additional 30,000 troops would be deployed in the country.
In a statement released days after, United Church of Christ (UCC) head minister the Rev. Geoffrey Black said that Obama's commitment "asks far too much of our already strained military forces at this time," and that a strategy emphasizing, "engagement over escalation," would be more promising.
"Many are concerned that a strategy relying so heavily on military escalation will not achieve the lasting peace that we are called to seek," Black said. "An approach that more heavily invests in developmental efforts that will address the root causes of violence, corruption, poverty and injustice, and provide leadership for intensified regional diplomacy seems a more promising path to the de-escalation and eventual ceasefire of this long and deadly conflict."
Meanwhile, President Obama made his first official visit to Afghanistan on Sunday to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over issues of corruption and government structure.
Obama also met with U.S. troops in the region, thanking them for their "incredible efforts" and "tremendous sacrifices."
"I want to make sure they know how proud their commander-in-chief is of them," Obama said, according to the Washington Post.
A meeting between Obama and Karzai in Washington was also scheduled for May 12.