• August 31, 2002
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    Christian leaders urge U.S. to ?stop rush to war? with Iraq
Christian leaders urge U.S. to ?stop rush to war? with Iraq A group of 37 Christian leaders at an international meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, are calling on the U.S. government to use restraint in dealing with Iraq.

The leaders, including several United Methodists, issued a statement Aug. 29, "A Call to Stop The Rush To War," urging the United States to seek the counsel of Congress, the United Nations and allies in dealing with Iraq. The religious leaders are in Geneva for a meeting of the World Council of Churches Central Committee.

"We are concerned about the situation in Iraq," the leaders say in their statement. "We believe that the Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so. But we also believe that the international community is weakened and respect for law undermined when national governments act individually rather than collectively to secure these goals."

The leaders express concern for the impact that military action would have on Christian-Muslim relations and the possibility that it would trigger an attack on Israel. They also say they don?t believe that "all reasonable alternative means of containing Iraq?s development of weapons of mass destruction have been exhausted."

Signers include the Rev. Robert Edgar, top staff executive of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and NCC President Elenie Huszagh. Edgar is a United Methodist.

Other United Methodist signers include: the Rev. Kathryn Bannister of Kansas, president of the World Council of Churches in North America; Lois McCullough Dauway, a staff executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York; the Rev. Richard A. Grounds of Tulsa, Okla.; and the Rev. Bruce W. Robbins, top staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in New York.

Other signers represent the African Methodist Episcopal Church; British Methodist Church; Anglican Church of Canada; the Baptist Union of Great Britain; the United Church of Canada; the Episcopal Church USA; the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ in the U.S. and Canada; Churches Together in Britain & Ireland; Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East; the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East; Presbyterian Church ? USA.

Also represented are the Orthodox Church in America; United Church of Canada; American Baptist Churches, USA; Church in Wales; British Methodist Church; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; United Church of Christ, USA; Church of England; Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; Moravian Church in America-Southern Province; Church of Scotland; Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council; United Reformed Church of England; National Baptist Convention USA Inc.; and Churches Together in Wales ? Cytun.

The full statement follows:

"A Call To Stop The Rush To War"


As representatives and participants from the United States, British and Canadian churches meeting at the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, we have heard and share the concern of those of other nations about the apparent drift towards military confrontation in Iraq.

As the calls for military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq have grown louder, we call for restraint. We are concerned about the situation in Iraq. We believe that the Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so. But we also believe that the international community is weakened and respect for law undermined when national governments act individually rather than collectively to secure these goals.

We have watched with growing alarm as the United States government has become increasingly unilateral in its approach to foreign affairs, and has failed to heed the advice and counsel of friends and allies.

Although both the U.S. and U.K. governments have claimed that they have evidence that Saddam Hussein is building up weapons of mass destruction, they have so far refused to make that evidence public. This undermines democratic government by depriving the U.S. Congress and the U.K. Parliament of the ability to make a considered judgment regarding the justification for war. Furthermore, the United Nations Charter does not permit states to engage in pre-emptive war. We therefore urge our governments to pursue this matter through the United Nations Security Council: In particular, we urge that Saddam Hussein?s offer to re-admit U.N. Weapons Inspectors be accepted.

Our knowledge of and links with church partners in the Middle East and our unity in Christ with Christians there make us very sensitive to the destabilizing potential of a war against Iraq for the whole region. There is no support among the Arab nations for such a war and very little support in Europe and elsewhere. Christian-Muslim relations would be further harmed by such a war, and the possibility of such an action triggering direct military confrontation in Israel cannot be ignored. Further, the forces of extremism and terrorism would be strengthened rather than diminished.

As Christians, we are concerned by the likely human costs of war with Iraq, particularly for civilians. We are unconvinced that the gain for humanity would be proportionate to the loss. Neither are we convinced that it has been publicly demonstrated that all reasonable alternative means of containing Iraq?s development of weapons of mass destruction have been exhausted. We call upon our governments to pursue these diplomatic means in active cooperation with the United Nations and to stop the apparent rush to war. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)

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