John Lovaas, 59, of Reston, recently formed Greater Reston Interfaith Peace Coalition, a group that has been holding vigils, rallies and teach-ins over the past several weeks.

War is a serious matter. A war against Iraq could kill young men and women, typically from less privileged families, not from those making the political decisions. It also could kill thousands of innocent Iraqi women, children and other civilians not engaged in the fighting but easily reached by our high tech weapons.

War should be undertaken only as the last resort and in self-defense. In the case of President Bush's proposed war against Iraq, this is clearly not the situation. Many nations and many Americans are not convinced there is a threat to the U.S. or the Middle East from Iraq. And some opinion polls in parts of Europe and the Middle East say that many people believe America is the greatest threat to world peace and stability.

The reasons for plunging into war seem to be political, economic, even personal for this president. While he asserts that he wants war "to protect our people," there is a danger that a war could lead to terrorist attacks against our people. Neither political or economic gain nor revenge is a legitimate basis for war by a civilized superpower.

Opposition to this war is spreading every day here and around the world. There is a feeling that no one is listening. Elected leaders seem cowed by the president's popularity in polls and are unwilling to speak out against a pre-emptive war. Many large news organizations, including The Post, have fallen into lockstep with Bush, daily pounding the drums for war.

Yet a few people have been willing to speak out and their voices have begun attracting others in this area. In Reston, merely asking a few church leaders last month if they might be interested in a peace vigil has sparked a groundswell of support for an active series of interfaith prayer vigils now accompanied by teach-ins, demonstrations, lobbying of elected officials and calls for more political actions.

A dozen houses of worship are involved in the vigils, including many Christian denominations as well as Jewish and Muslim centers. One very cold Saturday night recently, an incredibly diverse crowd of nearly 200 participated in a beautiful candlelight vigil on the steps of a church at Lake Anne. And, the peace movement is spreading across Northern Virginia as people discover the power of speaking for themselves when others will not. Join us.

John Lovaas can be reached at jlovaas@aol.com.

Various religious groups came together to organize a recent vigil. At the end, candles are lighted and raised in the name of peace.LOVAAS