PHILADELPHIA — The “Break the Silence Bus Tour” arrived here April 5. The tour, which is dedicated to speaking out for peace, began the day before, on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, at New York City’s Riverside Church.

The title comes from King’s 1967 antiwar sermon at that church, “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break the Silence.” The theme this year was “Beyond Iraq — A Time to Break the Silence.”

The tour, which is also traveling to the Midwest and the South, was the idea of Rabbi Arthur Waskow of Philadelphia’s Shalom Center and the Clergy and Laity Network. Tour supporters include Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame. Cohen wants people to know that 50 percent of the U.S. budget goes to the military — $418 billion, with an additional $82 billion to be voted on this month.

“Military experts said the military budget should be cut by 15 percent at the end of the Cold War,” Cohen said. “Imagine what $60 billion could do for our schools, our cities, our people in need.”

Clarence Smith, a tour member, said, “We want to raise the volume of the voices for peace and justice all over this country, and we want to listen to the people and understand their needs.”

This stop on the tour was held at Project Home, which provides affordable housing, job training and social services for the homeless. “We are also involved in political action for the poor,” Project Home Director Will O’Brien said.

The Rev. Isaac Miller of the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia said the community should be upset about the level of violence in poor communities. “There should be some anger in all of us toward this barbaric violence,” he said. “Too many children have no opportunity for a childhood. We of faith must channel this anger into positive struggle for peace and social justice.”

Dante Zappala spoke lovingly of his older brother, Sherwood Baker, a National Guardsman, who died in Iraq last year. The Zappala family belongs to the Gold Star Families for Peace and is committed to exposing the truth about the Iraq war.

Bob Smith, from the Brandywine Peace Community, said he was at Riverside Church in 1967 to hear King and it changed his life. He refused to go to Vietnam, served three years in prison and has been a peace activist ever since. On April 15 the Brandywine Peace Community will lead a Tax Day vigil at the local headquarters Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest weapons corporation.

An Internet document for peace and justice with input from more than 13,500 people can be found at

Habeebah Ali, an advocate for the homeless, spoke passionately about her concern for her draft age children. “Peace is my priority,” she said.