The Presbyterian Church Expresses Concern about War on Terror

Tasneem Jamal

Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from Rev. J. Mark Lewis, Moderator of the 128th General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada is a sponsor of Project Ploughshares. Ploughshares was involved in the process of composing this letter.

August 6, 2002

Dear Prime Minister Chrétien,

I am writing to bring you greetings on behalf of the 128th General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, which met in June, 2002. Our General Assembly has asked me to convey to you our deep concerns over the continuing war on terrorism and especially the implications for the people of Iraq

Since September 11th, many policy makers in the West have turned their attention to the potential threat posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Many peace-loving Canadians have been concerned by the escalation of the language used by President Bush in relation to the Iraqi regime. Recently it has been reported in the media that your government has been requested by the American Ambassador to Canada to support a military offensive against Iraq.

We take note of the April 2002 response of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Mr. Graham to our ecumenical partner KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives on this issue. In his letter he stated that “Canadian support for any military action (in the war against terrorism) will be decided on a case by case basis, and will reflect our own assessment of Canadian interests and the implications for the international community” and that “Canada’s policy towards Iraq centers on addressing, with equal priority, humanitarian and security/disarmament issues.”

Our primary concern is for the people of Iraq who suffered enormously as a result of the 1991 Gulf War and the twelve years of sanctions since then. We were privileged at General Assembly to hear from Dr. Riad Jarjour, General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches….

For a decade, the churches have tried to address humanitarian needs in Iraq. But our efforts are no match for the destruction that comes when the world’s most powerful military force unleashes the forces of war. Mr. Prime Minister, this must not happen again. Iraq cannot bear it. The people of Iraq cannot bear it. They have suffered beyond imagination and need development and peace, not violence and war.

As our colleagues at Project Ploughshares have noted, the peacebuilding paradigm advanced by Canada recognizes that enduring peace is built from the people up. It requires social, economic and political conditions that cannot be delivered by military force, but must be nurtured within while being supported politically and financially from without. If peacebuilding is supported, rather than undermined by destructive military and economic interventions, it can be both effective and politically expedient. A policy that obviously seeks to advance the welfare of the people of Iraq, while holding its regime accountable to international standards, would win approval where it is most needed – domestically in Iraq, and within the Arab world.

Therefore, in light of grievous human suffering in Iraq, among children and other innocent people, ensuing from the United Nations-sponsored economic sanctions against that country, we call on your government, in its capacity as a member of the United Nations, to speak against the application of these sanctions, and to seek instead that political approaches be taken towards the current Iraqi regime. Furthermore, in light of the current calls for extending the war on terrorism into Iraq, we urge the Government of Canada to voice clear opposition to a strategy of offensive military action against Iraq.

As we continue to pray for the people of Iraq, we hope that you and your colleagues in the Canadian government will consider our recommendations favourably.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. J. Mark Lewis,
Moderator of the 128th General Assembly,
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Cc: Hon. Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs

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