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51 Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical Leaders
Petition President Bush To Reconsider Iraq Invasion

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September 12, 2002, WASHINGTON, DC - Fifty-one heads of American Protestant and Orthodox churches and organizations and of Roman Catholic religious orders today announced opposition to U.S. military action against Iraq. In a letter to President Bush, the church leaders acknowledged that “Mr. Hussein poses a threat to his neighbors and to his own people, [but] we nevertheless believe it is wrong, as well as detrimental to U.S. interests” to launch an attack on Iraq.

The letter, convened by a national coalition named Churches for Middle East Peace, stated, “We oppose on moral grounds the United States taking further military action against Iraq now.” Citing the probable humanitarian consequences, civilian casualties, and the chaotic political aftermath of such a war, the church leaders noted that U.S. military force could easily destabilize the region with possible catastrophic results and further increase anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and Gulf.

General Secretary Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches, a joint ministry of 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations, stated, “We do not need to march down the path to Armageddon. Pre-emptive military action now being contemplated by the Administration cannot be morally justified.”  Edgar, a former six-term Member of the U.S. Congress, said, “Among other consequences, consider that a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. presents to the world a model of aggression that may encourage other nations to attack neighboring countries that threaten them.”

Releasing their letter after President Bush’s statement to the United Nations General Assembly, the church leaders insisted that the President work through the U.N. toward peace, not toward war. Father Stan DeBoe, chair of Churches for Middle East Peace, commented, “Consulting with the U.N. while insisting that the U.N. precisely implement our own policy is not what international cooperation is about. It is not a matter of ‘you go along with us or else we’ll do what we want,’ but rather how does the U.S. work with and through the U.N. to implement the consensus of the international community.”

DeBoe continued, “We are urging the President to uphold the values of our great country by working closely with the community of nations, not by rattling sabers nor by threatening to overthrow governments with force.”

The full text of the letter and the list of signers follows:

September 12, 2002 

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C.  20500 

Dear Mr. President:

 We, like all Americans, kneel in prayer and remembrance for the tragedy and violence that obliterated the lives of so many people one year ago.  As American religious leaders, we have sought during this year to listen, to learn, and to grow in our faith and compassion both for persons in our congregations and also for those many outside of our churches.  We applaud your leadership in bringing peoples of disparate faiths together to worship, to mourn, and to move on boldly with our lives – in a more caring fashion and with appreciation for the precious gifts of God given to all humankind.  Today, however, we write out of concern that those same precious gifts may be damaged by actions being contemplated by our nation. 

We, leaders of American churches and church-related organizations, are alarmed by recent statements by yourself and others in the Administration about pre-emptive military action against Iraq for the expressed purpose of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. Understanding that Mr. Hussein poses a threat to his neighbors and to his own people, we nevertheless believe it is wrong, as well as detrimental to U.S. interests, to take such action. 

We oppose on moral grounds the United States taking further military action against Iraq now.  The Iraqi people have already suffered enough through more than two decades of war and severe economic sanctions.  Military action against the government of Saddam Hussein and its aftermath could result in a large number of civilians being killed or wounded, as well as increasing the suffering of multitudes of innocent people. 

It is detrimental to U.S. interests to take unilateral military action when there continues to be strong multilateral support for a new weapons inspection regime and when most governments in Europe and the Middle East resist supporting military action.  It is important for the U.S. to cooperate with international efforts to control Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, if possible, through a regional weapons-of-mass-destruction control initiative.  

The pre-emptive use of military force by the United States to deal with proliferation problems, as serious as they may be, establishes a dangerous precedent, particularly for other nations that feel threatened by the weapons capabilities of their neighbors.  Furthermore, unilaterally overthrowing enemy governments heightens concern in other countries about American respect for their integrity as nations, as well as for international law. 

U.S. military action at this time has great potential to further destabilize the region.  It is likely that international support for the war on terrorism will erode if the United States attacks Iraq without a United Nations mandate.  Militants in Arab and Islamic majority countries would seize the opportunity to incite people against not only the United States but also against governments that cooperate with the U.S.  An invasion of, or intensified military action against, Iraq will divert attention from the need to seek ways to reduce international terrorism and will retard efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan. 

Rather than attacking Iraq, we urge that your priority in the Middle East be an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire and peace settlement.  As do many in the world, we look to the United States government to set an example for the international community.  As Christian religious leaders responsible for millions of U.S. citizens we expect our government to reflect the morals and values we hold dear – pursuing peace, not war; working with the community of nations, not overthrowing governments by force; respecting international law and treaties while holding in high regard all human life. 


Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA

Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel
Moderator, 214th General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Marilyn Borst
Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Rev. Dennis Cleary, MM
U.S. Regional Superior
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Rev. Canice Connors, OFM.Conv
Provincial, Immaculate Conception Province
Conventual Franciscans
President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. John Doctor, OFM
Provincial, Sacred Heart Province

Fr. John Felice, OFM
Provincial Holy Name Province

Rev. Michael Guimon, OSM
Order of Servites

Bishop Marshall Gilmore
Presiding Bishop of Eighth District (Dallas)
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
in the United States and Canada

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Stan Hastey
Executive Director
Alliance of Baptists

Rev. Michael Higgins, CP
Provincial, Western Province

Elenie K. Huszagh, Esq.
National Council of Churches USA

Thomas H. Jeavons
General Secretary
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church
of Antioch for the Eastern USA

Rev. Ted Keating, SM
Executive Director
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches

Ronald J.R. Mathies
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee

Canon Patrick Mauney
Chairman, Board of Directors
Church World Service

Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director
Church World Service

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Mark Miller, CPPS
Society of the Precious Blood

Joseph Nangle, OFM
Co-Director, Franciscan Mission Service
Franciscan Brothers and Fathers

Jose Ortiz
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Lindsay Penn-Matheson
President of the Board of Directors
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Sr. Constance Phelps, SCL
Vice President
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

The Most Rev. Metropolitan PHILIP
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Sr. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP
Past President
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Rev. Judy Mill Reimer
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren General Board

Leonard Rodgers
Venture International

Rev. Dr. Roy Sano
Bishop (Retired)
United Methodist Church

James F. Schrag
Executive Director
Executive Board, Mennonite Church USA

Dr. William J. Shaw
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

Sr. Carol Shinnick, SSND
Executive Director
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Ronald J. Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action

Rev. William Sinkford
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

John Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Kathy Thornton, RSM
National Coordinator
A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Lydia Veliko
Ecumenical Officer
United Church of Christ

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National

Rev. Austin Walsh, ST
General Custodian
Missionary Servants of the Holy Trinity

Dr. Robert K. Welsh
President, Council on Christian Unity
Ecumenical Officer
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada

Corinne Whitlatch
Churches for Middle East Peace

The Rev. David L. Wickmann

Moravian Church, Northern Province

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church

Rev. Ronald Witherup, SS
Provincial, Sulpicians
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Sr. Mary Ann Zollman, BVM
Leadership Conference of Women Religious


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