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Heads of NCC, Two Muslim Organizations Issue Joint Statement on Iraq

March 24, 2003 - The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Secretary General of the Islamic Circle of North America and Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America today issued the following joint statement:

Muslims and Christians Unite in Prayer and Concern

We are deeply saddened that military action against Iraq has begun. We pray now for a quick conclusion to this war, for the loss of as few lives as possible, and for peace. In the darkness of war, let us be guided by faith and hope, and continue to act as responsible citizens and peace-builders.

We pray for the people of Iraq, and grieve for those who may now bear more tragedy in addition to the severe hardships and loss of loved ones suffered over the last twelve years. We pray as well for all those serving in the armed forces, that they may return home to their families safely and soon.

We pray for the leaders of our nation, and of the international community, that they may be guided by God to uphold peace, and allow God’s mercy to influence their policies and actions.

We will provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by this war, whether refugees fleeing combat, or those displaced or in need within Iraq. That we do this is not in any way an acquiescence to, or affirmation of this war, which we continue to view as an unjustified, unwise and pre-emptive rather than necessary course of action. We provide humanitarian aid as an expression of our shared commitment to all God’s people.

We are concerned that control of humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Iraq is to be placed with the U.S. Department of Defense. We ask that a civilian and multinational authority be named to oversee this work. We also urge that any use of Iraq’s territory or resources be authorized by a representative body of the Iraqi people under international supervision.

We welcome the assurance of President Bush that this action is undertaken with "respect for [Iraq’s] citizens, for their great civilization, and for the religious faiths they practice." We must confess, however, that we are concerned about the possible long-term consequences of this war. Not only will the war bring destruction of the infrastructure of Iraq, but we fear it may further destabilize the Middle East, exacerbate anti-American sentiment, and create ideal conditions for the growth of extremism and the propagation of a new wave of terrorists.

We call on all of our people, on our national leaders and all law enforcement authorities to protect the safety of every member of every community here in the United States. May we work together to prevent acts of hatred and to discourage hate speech and any other manifestations of a "backlash" against certain groups of people because of their ethnic origin or religion. May we also uphold together the American tradition of tolerance for dissent, including that of opposition to this war.

We are particularly concerned about the possibility of detentions of certain groups of people, and especially those who have come here to the U.S. to seek asylum from political and religious persecution elsewhere in the world. The proposed detention of asylum seekers on the basis of religion or national origin, as proposed in the Department of Homeland Security’s "Operation Liberty Shield," alarms us. Singling out groups or individuals based on ethnicity, country of origin or religion will only promote distrust and hysteria, and not make us safer.

May God alone, the Lord of all the worlds, the ever-merciful, guide us on the straight path, protect those in harm’s way, and bless our efforts toward peace.

Mr. Naeem Baig
Secretary General
Islamic Circle of North America

Dr. Bob Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed
Secretary General
Islamic Society of North America

March 24, 2003

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