Church Leaders United Against War in Iraq

Tasneem Jamal

World Council of Churches press release.

Cf. WCC Press Release, PR-03-08 of 3 February 2003-02-05

Three U.S. church leaders have joined 22 church leaders in Europe and the Middle East in opposing war in Iraq and calling for a peaceful resolution of conflicts.

The meeting of church leaders in Berlin today (February 5) was convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in consultation with the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) and the Middle East Council of Churches, hosted by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

The leaders deplored the fact that the United States and other nations “regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy” and rejected the aims of the U.S. to use a “pre-emptive military strike” to remove the Iraqi regime.  They also called on the government of Iraq to comply with United Nations demands that it destroy all weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. leaders who added their names to the statement are the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA; James Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, USA; and the Rev. Dr Rebecca Larson, executive director, Division for Church and Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, USA.

The full text of the statement follows:

“1. As European church leaders, in consultation with councils of churches in the USA and the Middle East, we remain extremely concerned with the continued calls for military action against Iraq by the US and some European governments. As people of faith, our love of neighbor compels us to oppose war and to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts. As churches we pray for peace and freedom, justice and safety for the people of Iraq and in the Middle East as a whole. Such prayer obliges us to be instruments of peace.

2. We deplore the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy. This creates an international culture of fear, threat and insecurity.

3. We cannot accept the stated objectives of a war against Iraq, as laid out by these governments, in particular the US. Pre-emptive military strike and war as a means to change the regime of a sovereign state are immoral and in violation of the UN Charter. We appeal to the Security Council to uphold the principles of the UN Charter which strictly limit the legitimate use of military force and to refrain from creating negative precedence and lowering the threshold for using violent means to solve international conflicts.

4. We believe that military force is an inappropriate means to achieve disarmament of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. We insist that the carefully designed mechanisms of the UN weapons inspections be given the time needed to complete their work.

5. All UN member states have to comply with binding UN resolutions and resolve conflicts by peaceful means. Iraq can be no exception. We call on the Government of Iraq to destroy any weapons of mass destruction and related research and production facilities. Iraq must cooperate fully with UN weapons inspectors, and guarantee full respect of the civil and political, economic, social and cultural human rights for all its citizens.  The people in Iraq must be given hope that there are alternatives to both dictatorship and war.

6. A war would have unacceptable humanitarian consequences, including large-scale displacement of people, the breakdown of state functions, the possibility of civil war and major unrest in the whole region. The plight of Iraqi children and the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the past 12 years of sanctions regime weighs heavily on our hearts. In the present situation, we strongly affirm long-standing humanitarian principles of unconditional access to people in need.

7. We further caution against the potential social, cultural, and religious as well as diplomatic long-term consequences of such a war. Further fueling the fires of violence that are already consuming the region will only exacerbate intense hatred strengthening extremist ideologies and breeding further global instability and insecurity. As church leaders in Europe we have a moral and pastoral responsibility to challenge xenophobia in our own countries as well as allay the fears of many in the Muslim world, that the so-called Western Christianity is against their culture, religion and values. We should seek co-operation for peace, justice and human dignity.

8. All governments, in particular the members of the Security Council have the responsibility to consider the whole complexity of this issue. All peaceful and diplomatic means to compel Iraq to comply with UN Security Council resolutions have not been exhausted.

9. For us it is a spiritual obligation, grounded in God’s love for all humanity, to speak out against war in Iraq. Through this message we send a strong sign of solidarity and support, to churches in Iraq, the Middle East and in the USA. We pray that God will guide those responsible to take
decisions based on careful reflections, moral principles and high legal standards. We invite all churches to join us in this act of witness and to pray for and encourage participation of all people in the struggle for a peaceful resolution of this conflict.”

List of participants

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches
Rev. Dr Keith Clements, general secretary of the Council of EuropeanChurches
Präses Manfred Kock, president of the Council of the Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (EKD)
Bishop Dr. Walter Klaiber, head of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland (ACK) and Evangelical-Methodist Church (Germany)
Rev. Dr Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the Protestant Federation of France
Bishop Mag. Herwig Sturm, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg and Helvetic Confessions in Austria
Rev. Thomas Wipf, president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches
Bishop Jonas Jonson, Bishop of the Church of Sweden
Rev. Kjell Jonasson, Church of Sweden
Rev. Canon Dr Trond Bakkevig, Church of Norway
Archbishop Jukka Parma, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
Bischop Karsten Nissen, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark
Dr. Alison Elliot, Church of Scotland and Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS)
Rev Arie W. van der Plas, Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and Uniting Protestant Churches in the Netherlands
Archbishop Feofan, Russian Orthodox Church, archbishop of Berlin and Germany
Bishop Athanasius of Achaja, Church of Greece
Rev. Dr. Nuhad Daoud Tomeh, representing the General Secretariat of the Middle East Council of Churches
Mr. Thor-Arne Pröis, director of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, Geneva

WCC staff:
Mr Peter Weiderud, director WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs

EKD Secretariat:
Bishop Dr Rolf Koppe
Rev. Dr Christa Grengel
Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller

Church of England
H.H. Bartholemew, Ecumenical Patriarch Evangelical Church of Spain

In North America, please contact Philip E. Jenks, communications officer, US
Office, World Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 915, New York,
NY 10115, 212-870-3193,  For further information, please
contact the Media Relations Office,  tel: +41 (0)22 791 64 21 / (41 22) 791
61 53

Philip E. Jenks
Communications Officer
US Office, World Council of Churches
475 Riverside Drive, Room 915
New York, NY 10115

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