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Longing for Peace, Justice
November 15, 2001, OAKLAND, Calif. A longing for peace with justice marks the statement "Out of the Ashes and Tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001," adopted today at the National Council of Churches annual General Assembly, meeting here Nov. 13-15.
Delegates from the NCCs 36 Protestant and Orthodox member communions, in the three-page statement, lamented the suffering, death and grief unleashed upon the United States on Sept. 11.
At the same time, they expressed their concern at the subsequent attacks in the United States on people of Middle Eastern and Central and Southern Asian background, and detention of some people "presumably because of possible linkages to terrorist activities." And they expressed their alarm that "as violence escalates, the pre-existing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan reaches horrendous proportions."
Delegates stopped short of calling for an immediate end to the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, but called "for an early end to the bombing campaign and for all parties to collaborate with the international community to discern non-violent means that may be available by which to bring to justice those who terrorize the nations of the world."
They further urged:
"We believe that no nation can feel secure by itself if others are insecure," they said. "Similarly, military security does not ensure economic security. Nor can there by true security without adequate food, water, health care, sanitation or shelter. The challenge for those who seek justice and peace is to reinforce the intimate connections between economic, political, cultural and physical security. Such a challenge is pertinent to the current situation in Afghanistan and should be taken up by the United Nations in its effort to broker a post-war Afghanistan government with the active participation of Russia and the United States and the countries surrounding Afghanistan: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan."
The Assembly encouraged the NCCs member communions and their congregations "to undertake open dialogue on questions of peace and justice seeking to build stronger multi-faith communities of tolerance and mutual understanding, and to renew our commitment of the churches in the ministry of peace with justice."
The resolution appeals to the NCCs member communions and the general public to contribute generously to the Church World Service Afghanistan/Pakistan Appeal for $6.28 million designated for food and shelter for Afghan refugees and internally displaced. CWS, the NCCs global service and witness ministry, has been active in Central and Southern Asia for decades.
The full text of "Out of the Ashes and Tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001" follows (or, in some versions of this story, accompanies it).
The assemblys reflections on Sept. 11 and its aftermath extended to the impact of that days events on an already declining U.S. economy and to the "poor among us, the newly unemployed and the hundreds of thousands in our land whose lives, already deeply stressed by poverty, will now become even more difficult."
In a second, resolution titled "For the Faithful Living of These Days," delegates unanimously declared that "together we can and must draw upon our deep religious resources to address the needs of the most vulnerable among us."
They pledged and invited others to practice "daily attention to Scripture and prayer in the active search for the leading of the Holy Spirit, immediate attention to the unmet needs in our communities for food, shelter, clothing, comfort and meaningful work, weekly observance of a day of fasting in which we modify our patterns of consumption and pray for the poor and give whatever we save to the needy, (and) regular donations of food, money, time and talent to community pantries, food kitchens and places of refuge and hope for the poor."
The Assembly noted that, under provisions of the 1996 welfare law, people will soon begin to exhaust their lifetime eligibility for public assistance. Unemployment insurance may run out for others before they are able to find new jobs.
Accordingly, the delegates urged church members and others to "call upon local, state and federal agencies to stop the clock on eligibility terminations of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), unemployment insurance, food stamps and health care."
The call to prayer and fasting picked up on a point raised by the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, NCC General Secretary, in his report to the General Assembly on Wednesday.
"Each of us has come to this gathering in the shadow of September 11, struggling with how we think and feel and with how to respond," Dr. Edgar said. "This may be a time to learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters about daily prayer and fasting," especially as Muslims observe Ramadan and Christians approach Advent and Christmas. He noted others issuing similar calls, including Richard Mouw from Fuller Seminary, Jim Wallis from Call to Renewal and Rabbi David Saperstein from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Dr. Edgar, in his report to the General Assembly, also described the ecumenical movements vocation "to be builders of the future." In the Council, that is happening through participation in building Habitat for Humanity houses and work to build a new, more broadly inclusive ecumenical entity. He also emphasized the importance of work against poverty and for peace with justice in particular, better understanding among Christians and Muslims.
Also at General Assembly:
Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqi, Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County and Immediate Past President of the Islamic Society of North America, was scheduled to address the Assembly on Thursday morning, but was prevented from coming by flight delays.
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