Sowing the Seeds of Peace
January 3, 2003
New York, New York
Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches
We are a delegation of 13 religious leaders and experts visiting Iraq under the
auspices of the National Council of Churches (U.S.A.). Ours is a religious and not a
political delegation. We came to see the faces of the Iraqi people so that the American
people can see the faces of children laughing and singing and also hurting and suffering.
We brought with us dozens of pictures drawn by American children. We shared these pictures
with Iraqi children who, in turn, gave us messages to take back to children in the United
We are called by God to be peacemakers. War is not inevitable and can be averted, even
at this moment. President Bush reiterated, on New Years Eve, his desire to reach a
peaceful conclusion to this crisis and we are grateful for his words.
We came as humanitarian inspectors, not weapons inspectors. We visited schools and
hospitals and saw for ourselves the devastating impact of 12 years of sanctions on the
people of Iraq. We touched babies suffering illnesses that can be prevented by proper
medication currently unavailable to the people of Iraq. We held the cold hands of children
in unheated schools with broken windows and underpaid teachers, nurses, and doctors.
UNICEF officials shared heartbreaking statistics of malnutrition, disease, and hunger
with us. We are concerned by the increasing reliance of Iraqi people on the food basket
provided through the oil for food program, a program not intended to be the
primary source of nutrition or a balanced diet. We intend to advocate to our government
for changes in the oil for food program that will allow for humanitarian,
educational, and medical needs to be better met. We understand the cruelty embedded in the
oil for food program as it affects ordinary Iraqis.
We worshiped with Iraqi Christians and in the presence of Muslims; and, we prayed with
both. This is the birthplace of Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
We acknowledged and celebrated our oneness in God. We attended a New Years Eve Mass
at a Catholic Church and a potluck dinner at a Presbyterian Church-a potluck that would be
intimately familiar to American Christians. On the street and in informal settings we
experienced the spontaneous warmth, hospitality and openness of the Iraqi people. We feel
privileged and honored by these human relationships
We asked pointed questions of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz regarding the human
rights situation in Iraq, the opportunities for dissent and criticism of the government,
and choices made by the government with the resources available to it. We want to be clear
with the American people and the Iraqi government that we do not support authoritarian
We came with what? questions-whats going on? what
can we discover? but we were met with why? questions-why us?
why now? We have concluded that we are opposed to this war because:
*a war against Iraq will make the U.S. less secure, not more secure. All wars have
unintended consequences. We believe the entire region, including Israel and the United
States; will be at greater risk of terrorism if war takes place.
*widespread suffering and death will result for innocent people. So-called smart
bombs do dumb things like missing their targets and destroying homes, water and
sewage treatment plants, schools, churches, and mosques.
*preemptive war is immoral and illegal. It is theologically illegitimate and profoundly
violates our Christian beliefs and religious principles. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the
Prince of Peace, we know this war is completely antithetical to his teachings. Jesus
Christ taught peace, justice, hope and reconciliation and rejected revenge, war, death,
When we return to the United States:
1. We pledge support for the "All Our Children" campaign, a project of the
Church World Service and other partners.
2. We will continue to build constructive, positive relationships between our nations
and peoples through our ecumenical and interfaith relationships.
3. We will meet with U.S. administration and Congressional leaders to urge them to turn
away from war. We will ask U.S. government and military leaders to take the time to learn
the names and faces of average, ordinary Iraqi people.
4. We will meet with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to seek a
revamped and more humane oil for food program.
5. We will share our photographs and our stories with the people in our 140,000
congregations so that they may see that, like us, our Iraqi brothers and sisters are
children of God.
The weapons inspectors need to be allowed to do their work. Now, it is time for the
humanitarian inspectors to do theirs.
In closing, we affirm the words shared with us by the Metropolitan of the Syrian
Orthodox Church: "Together, we must sow the seeds of peace and let God water and
nurture the seeds."
News Release About the Mission
Iraq Mission's Photo Gallery