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|Leaders from American, Canadian, British Churches
Appeal to U.S. Government: 'Stop the Rush to War'
August 29, 2002, GENEVA, Switzerland - Thirty-eight Christian leaders from Britain, Canada and the United States, gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for a meeting of the World Council of Churches Central Committee, have issued an urgent call to the American government to pull back from its unilateral movement toward pre-emptive military action against Iraq, and to seek the appropriate counsel of the Congress, the United Nations, and U.S. allies.
The group, which included both General Secretary Bob Edgar and President Elenie Huszagh of the National Council of Churches USA, warned that the human cost might far outweigh the gain of such an attack, and that they do not believe it has been proven that "all reasonable alternative means of containing Iraqs development of weapons of mass destruction have been exhausted."
Following is the full text of the message, and a list of the signers.
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 Husseins 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 Iraqs 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)
The Rev. Katherine Bannister (United Methodist Church, USA)
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