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Longing for Peace, Justice
Marks NCC Assembly Statement

Click here to read the full statement.

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 NCC’s 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:

  • "the U.S. government and other governments to ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to treat all peoples with dignity, respect, and tolerance irrespective of religion, race, ethnicity or color."
  • "the United States to play a constructive role within the framework of the United Nations in establishing institutions of a post-war Afghan government that are broadly based, respectful of their traditions and acceptable to the people of Afghanistan."
  • "the United States to make a long-term commitment to the region with a view to promoting harmonious relationships, economic development and lasting peace."

"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 NCC’s 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 NCC’s 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 NCC’s 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 assembly’s reflections on Sept. 11 and its aftermath extended to the impact of that day’s 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 movement’s 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:

  • Delegates declared the NCC’s commitment to work for improvements in three programs crucial to low-income people -- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Related Programs, the Food Stamp Program and the Child Care and Development Block Grant – all coming up for reauthorization in 2002. The purpose of these and related programs "should be the reduction and elimination of poverty, not merely the reduction of caseloads," they said.
  • Delegates expressed appreciation for a proposed "Resolution on Sudan," developed by the NCC’s Church World Service ministry in close working relationship with the Sudan Council of Churches, operational in northern Sudan, and the New Sudan Council of Churches, operational in southern Sudan. They asked for time to review the resolution in their communions, asking the NCC’s Executive Board to take up the resolution at its February 2002 meeting.
  • The Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of Church World Service, the NCC’s international service and witness ministry, described CWS response following Sept. 11 with training in pastoral and spiritual care for pastors and other caregivers across the United States, and with a $6.28 program of shelter and food kits for Afghan refugees and internally displaced.

In the past year, CWS also has provided humanitarian assistance following earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. CWS is at work for Middle East peace, engaged in dialogue with government on appropriate ways to work together to meet human need, and collaborating with more than 2,000 partners in more than 80 countries in emergency response, development and refugee assistance, the Rev. McCullough said.

  • Angela Glover Blackwell of Oakland, a vice chair of the Children’s Defense Fund Board and convenor of the Black Community Crusade for Children, a CDF initiative, thanked the NCC for its support of the "Act to Leave No Child Behind," proposed comprehensive legislation that seeks to ensure children’s well-being. She also described her work to build strong communities, "so important" for children.
  • Heard a report from an NCC delegation visit to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay; participated in a worship service led by four Bay Area children; heard a stirring keynote presentation by Dr. Tony Campolo, who called his listeners to work to end poverty and to root their work soundly in Scripture, and honored outgoing NCC President Andrew Young.

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.

-end-


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