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A Vision of Peace in a Time of War:
The Need for a Peace-Centered Foreign Policy

By the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar
General Secretary, National Council of Churches

A Policy Paper
Prepared in Conjunction with Dr. Edgar’s April 15, 2003, Address
“The Role of the Church in U.S. Foreign Policy Today”
The Inaugural Lecture in the Joan B. Kroc Distinguished Lecture Series
Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego

President Bush has given us his vision. It is a vision of America as the world’s Sheriff. We live in a town of outlaws, with unscrupulous gunslingers on all sides. We must shoot them before they shoot us. We can trust virtually no one. Perhaps the British can help watch our back in the Global Wild West, but ultimately we must rely on one thing and one thing only: our unrivaled military power, which gives us the ability to rain down "shock and awe" on our adversaries. The United Nations sits powerless and divided in the world’s town hall; it is only useful to us if it stamps approval on our arrest warrants. Supposed allies such as France and Germany are cowardly and na´ve. In President Bush’s vision of the world, we, like the cowboys of old, must rely on ourselves. Our might makes right.

In our image of this town, drawn perhaps from the Western film genre, there is also at least one church and there is a preacher. I can see him now. He is wearing a black suit and carrying a well-worn Bible. He and his congregation-singing old time hymns-are a harbinger of more peaceful and civilized times to come. True, he’s got a bit part, but let’s shift the camera angle and view the town from his perspective.

That’s basically what I want to do today. Any metaphor breaks down if you stretch it too far. But by taking the preacher’s part I want to move to a serious consideration of how church leaders view our role in the world today. If the church had a foreign policy, what would it look like?

Could there be a more important moment to ask that question than now? Today, for the first time, the United States, in clear defiance of the will of the United Nations Security Council, has launched a "preemptive" war against a hypothetical threat from another sovereign country - granted, a ruthless and brutal dictatorship - but a sovereign country nonetheless. In the past century, the United States several times engaged in gunboat diplomacy, intervening in poor, dependent states to open markets or to foment uprisings to bring to power more friendly rulers. But the invasion of Iraq sets an entirely different standard for U.S. unilateralism.

This is the first manifestation of the Bush’s Administration new National Security Strategy, promulgated last fall, which gives clear policy focus to the President’s vision of America’s role in the post-9/11 world. This new strategy says that the U.S. will engage in wars of "preemption" to attack our adversaries before they attack us.

We now stand in the shadow of that policy and the war in Iraq resulting from it. While the military victory achieved by the U.S. and our British allies, with symbolic support from a handful of other nations, has been impressive and swift, we come back to questions we had before this war began. Was this war necessary? And, to use the military’s term, what has been the collateral damage from this war?

On the one side, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has been one of the most brutal rulers in the world, and we all can be happy that the Iraqi people are free from his despotic rule and that of his two ruthless sons. Recent scenes from Baghdad are testimony to the irrepressible yearning for freedom and dignity in the human heart in every land. But there are other scenes from Baghdad that American television news has chosen not to show us. Many of these scenes are judged to be too shocking and uncomfortable to show Americans in their homes. They are the scenes of the devastation of war - the terrible toll that rockets and bombs exact on urban areas, on families, on parents and children.

The collateral damage from this war - to thousands of families, to property, to our international reputation, to our national budget priorities - has been enormous. And now we face an even greater challenge. All through the debate over Iraq policy, those opposing war have argued that the war’s aftermath is the most difficult aspect of this enterprise. For winning the peace - and reconstructing and rebuilding a proud, nationalistic and fractious Arab Muslim state -- is much more difficult than dropping laser-guided bombs on bunkers.

As this unnecessary "elective" war winds down in Iraq, we need both to look back at what brought us to this point and to look forward to where we go from here. Those of us who believe there are peaceful ways to solve conflicts without resort to war must provide an alternative vision to the unilateral paradigm thrust upon us by the Bush Administration.

The President’s stark and fearful view of the world says this war in Iraq - and other preemptive actions - are necessary to protect our nation. He says we must act alone to protect our way of life. But millions of Americans - as well as countless others around the world -- believe there is another, better way. We believe the United States can exercise global leadership in pursuit of peace, justice, freedom and human dignity for all persons. Today I would like to share with you the principles of a peace-centered foreign policy.

But first, let’s look briefly at what brought us to this point. To paraphrase Santayana, if we don’t learn from the past, especially the very recent past, we will be condemned to repeat it. And in the age of the National Security Strategy, this is a grave threat indeed. War-minded hawks in the Administration are even now trying to use the "shock and awe" of the Iraq war to coerce and intimidate Syria, North Korea, Iran, and other states. The Administration’s policy of preemption - formed in the crucible of the September 11 bombings - shapes the agenda of the Bush Administration, and we need to understand what it prescribes for our dangerous world.


It has been well documented that there are those in the Bush Administration whose desire to "finish the job" of the First Gulf War has dominated their thinking since then. But there was not a consensus for such action until after September 11. Within two weeks of that fateful day, the President has subsequently said, he became convinced that the United States needed to take action to disarm Saddam Hussein’s regime. Never mind that Iraq did not have any connection to the al Qaeda attacks. It is quite disturbing that the President and his highly ideological team played fast and loose with intelligence reports, alleging connections between Iraq and al Qaeda that were disingenuous at best and exaggerating the reports of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

The President was right, of course, that September 11 showed us that the potential marriage of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction forms the paramount threat to peace in our time. But the sad truth is that this war in Iraq-and the loss of life and injuries it has caused-need not have happened. Iraq was in a decrepit state and greatly restricted in its ability to expand its programs of chemical and biological weapons. With a program of invigorated, coercive inspections in place since late last year, inspectors had the Iraqis further under scrutiny.

At this moment of American military triumph in Iraq, it is easy to rejoice in the exultation of the moment -- the liberation of the long-suffering Iraqi people from Saddam’s brutal dictatorship - and to conclude that perhaps the Bush policy has worked. This is the quick assessment of many Americans who get their news in "shock and awe" soundbites from embedded reporters.

Freedom-loving people around the world are of course happy to see free Iraqis dancing on the head of the dictator’s statues in Baghdad. But if we look to the broader consequences of this invasion and our running roughshod over the UN Security Council and international public opinion, it becomes quickly apparent that this is not the whole story.

No serious analyst of terrorism can doubt that this war will beget scores of new terrorists angry at what they perceive as America’s war on Arabs and Islam. Egyptian President Mubarak stated his fear that this would create "a hundred new bin Ladens." If Mubarak’s prophecy is even partially true it becomes abundantly clear that the balance sheet from this war is heavily weighted against us. "Preemption" ironically creates more problems to preempt.


In contrast to the preemption doctrine of the Bush Administration, we need another vision -- a practical and activist foreign policy of peacemaking. In the post-9/11 world, we recognize more than ever before that we live in a globally interdependent world. We have tasted the benefits of global integration in myriad ways, but since that fateful day we in America have realized in a profoundly tragic way that our security is intimately linked to events, conditions and grievances of persons around the world.

In an interdependent world, we need to work with others to reach solutions to the many challenges we face. Terrorism, arms proliferation, the narcotics trade, displaced persons and refugees, rapidly spreading contagious diseases, and scarcity of vital resources are a few of the transnational challenges that can’t be solved without international cooperation. We need to mobilize and invest our tremendous resources as a nation on behalf of conflict prevention, rather than conflict reaction. We must adopt a foreign policy based on a civil and faithful respect for multilateral institutions, for human rights and for a fair and sustainable global economy.

A foreign policy of peacemaking must be rooted in some simple but fundamental principles. A peace-centered foreign policy must be:

  • Internationally engaged;
  • Rooted in multilateral cooperation;
  • Committed to collective security through arms control, deterrence, disarmament and international cooperation;
  • Dedicated to our best principles;
  • And, perhaps most importantly, proactive not reactive.


First of all, a foreign policy of peace must engage with the rest of the world. We cannot afford to retreat into isolation or lack of caring for the rest of the world. But we need to have a different model of engagement than we have seen in recent years. We cannot intervene briefly and then forget about a "trouble spot" after it has been "liberated." The U.S., in particular, has shown a tragic tendency to do this in Afghanistan, and we risk losing the peace after winning the war to oust the Taliban leadership and break up the al Qaeda training camps. In the rush to war with Iraq, the President virtually ignored budget requests to meet the immense reconstruction needs for President Karzai’s fledging government.

We must show ourselves willing to do the long-term work of developing fragile economic, political and social institutions; and patiently improving human rights. This is not accomplished in a quick, lightening campaign of "shock and awe." It requires patient and persistent engagement over years, in some cases generations. Think for a moment of your own community and neighborhood, and the tremendous investment of time, sweat and resources needed to build up your local schools, houses of worship, and other local institutions. We need to be engaged with a long-term helping hand to those who seek a better, freer life.

This is not to say that all problems can be solved by development or aid - they can’t - but we have increasingly in recent years moved toward being "one dimensional" in our foreign policy toolbox. Today we have far and away the strongest military, and we are quantum leaps ahead in our military technology, but the rest of our foreign policy tools have been allowed to rust: we have not funded development assistance, technical training, and democracy and capacity building sufficiently to meet the growing challenges we face. Thus, we find ourselves get in a situation where the main levers of influence we have are military. That dangerously lowers the bar for deploying the military to solve a problem.

Being fully engaged internationally in a foreign policy of peacemaking means to focus more attention on preventing conflicts rather than seeking to intervene or react to crises. Nations such as Switzerland, Sweden and Canada have done important work in exploring how conflicts can be prevented and mediated, and we should look to integrate their insights into our foreign policy approach. We need to make the investments that are so critical to preventing problems in the future.


In order to be most effectively engaged internationally, we simply cannot go it alone. Even though the United States is the most powerful nation in the history of the world, the challenges we face are simply too big for our nation - or any nation now or in the future - to handle solo. Most Americans in their daily lives never see the extent of what we are up against. A third of the world - more than two billion people - lives in extreme poverty, surviving on a scant fraction of what even the working poor earn in the United States, a mere couple dollars or less a day to support a family.

Grinding poverty, lack of educational opportunity, diseases that strike like plagues of biblical proportions … these combine to make fertile ground for despots and radical revolutionaries - both religious and secular. In such hostile environments, fanatics espouse violence to advance their causes. We who live under the rule of law can scarcely imagine what it is like to live in a society that lacks the foundations of law. But this is the reality for masses of the world’s citizens.

To address these threats, we need a strong and revitalized United Nations and the active engagement and cooperation of our democratic allies around the world. Ironically, at a time when the Bush Administration has disparaged and lambasted it, the United Nations has more clout and functions better than any time in its history. Under the able leadership of Kofi Annan, the UN and its subsidiary bodies are playing positive roles around the globe.

The UN demonstrated its responsiveness and accountability following the September 11 attacks. Immediately afterwards, the Security Council joined us in pressuring the Taliban and then passed resolutions to authorize international action versus Taliban and al Qaeda. Through UNSC resolution 1371 and the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the international community was mobilized to increase international cooperation in fighting terrorism. In particular, the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee has been an important global "bully pulpit" to encourage practical steps by all nations to crack down on terrorist financing, organizing and movement.

This has led to some dramatic breakthroughs in our global "war on terrorism." Witness the recent arrest of al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Or the crackdowns on al Qaeda operatives in Spain, Germany, Britain, Singapore and numerous other lands. Even countries that traditionally have been at arm’s length from us- such as Syria and Libya - have cooperated in the campaign against al Qaeda, which we need to remember is the major threat our nation faces today.

UN agencies and other international bodies also perform a wide range of important work to feed the world’s children, assist the world’s refugees, advocate for safer labor standards, promote the world’s biodiversity, and expand educational and cultural exchanges. Clearly, cooperation multilaterally is the most effective way to achieve results against terrorism or other international threats to peace and security. What is lacking is our willingness to fully engage and work with the UN and to work within the Security Council to seek the changes we would like.


We need to commit ourselves anew to cooperation in disarmament and arms control. Rather than disparaging international efforts to limit the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we need to more vigorously engage with international agencies that seek to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the missiles that can transport them. But we can hardly put the genie back in the bottle. At least two dozen nations in the world today possess chemical or biological weapons, perhaps even forty nations. The United States has played a leading role in the proliferation of arms development to scores of countries around the globe, and we need to shift our export policies from sowing instability in future troublespots to working for disarmament and limiting the spread of arms.

At this moment we would do well to recall that our security over the past half century has been bolstered greatly by the intersecting web of alliances that were forged in the crucible of World War II. The architecture of NATO, OSCE and other transatlantic security mechanisms have served us very well - and have taken on important new duties and manifestations in the past decade in response to security challenges in the Balkans. Important progress has been made since the end of the Cold War in patiently building confidence and establishing ongoing dialogue and exchanges with our former adversary Russia - still a dangerous state with thousands of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. And yet this Administration, in its rush to overthrow Saddam Hussein on its own timetable, has trampled on these important achievements to "go it alone" with ever-shifting "coalitions of the willing." This is rash and extremely shortsighted. In the wake of the Iraq war, one of our priorities must be to repair the extensive damage done to our security, political and economic linkages with our European allies and dialogue partners.

Similarly, we need to take steps to lessen the chance for future conflict with other potential adversaries. The Bush Administration has little thought about the implications of its "preemption" doctrine for our relations with China, and its possible incursions against Taiwan; or the dangerous armed face-off in south Asia between India and Pakistan. We need to engage proactively to prevent conflict in those areas.

Rather than subcontracting out our engagement in peacekeeping and civilian policing in conflict areas around the world, the U.S. should step up and develop capacity to help play a positive role in civilian policing. Seeing security in a broader context, we could follow the example of the Swiss and others and deploy "civilian peace-builders" to help create the conditions for sustainable peace and security. We should consciously seek to deploy the full range of American peacemakers as our real "first strike" policy to work for peace.

Coupled with strengthening of our alliances abroad and a new activism in support of peacemaking, we need full funding for the legitimate self-defense needs of homeland security -- to make our transportation and power networks, our industries, and ports better protected from possible terrorist attacks. It is a misallocation of resources to underfund the steps we can take at home to make our nation more secure from terrorism.


Across the world, even in the wake of an unpopular war, the United States continues to be widely admired. Why? Because of our principles and founding vision - equality under the law of all persons to the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they choose for themselves. When we remain true to that vision, we are respected.

And yet today a dangerous undercurrent of distrust, fear and even, in some quarters, hatred erodes our status in world opinion. I believe that is because, under this Administration, our walk does not match our talk.

After September 11, the United States enjoyed an extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and good will. In Paris, Berlin, Cairo, Amman, Santiago, Nairobi, Seoul and Tokyo, there was widespread solidarity and support for Americans in the wake of the horrific al Qaeda attacks on our shores. And that was not an idle sentiment. Scores of nations took tangible steps in the global fight against terrorism, actions that were channeled and harnessed - to the Bush Administration’s credit - in a multilateral campaign to bring to justice the leaders of al Qaeda and their Taliban patrons.

But in the past year, that goodwill and tangible cooperation has been squandered. And it is because we have strayed from our principles and the lessons we so easily could have and should have drawn from the aftermath of 9/11.

We need to reenergize and refocus our foreign policy in order to campaign for the values that make civilized life possible and sustainable. Our foreign policy should be dedicated to promoting peaceful relations among states, justice, human rights, international law, and the ideals of equality, fairness, and equal opportunity for all.

In order to live up to these ideals we must reverse the harm done to international agreements. This Administration has shown disdain for the system of international law thus undermining the enormous benefits that stem from international standards to promote efficient and reliable commerce, protect human rights, and provide mechanisms to arbitrate and prevent conflict between adversaries. We need to redouble our commitment to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other seminal human rights covenants. We should help take renewed action to help protect victims of torture and violence, to defend the voiceless and powerless, and to ensure broad and genuine enforcement of major human rights protocols.

When America exercises power most responsibly and effectively, we are able to build strong alliances through teamwork and fair play. We need to match our walk to our talk, our actions to our values. If we pursue double standards, we undermine our claims to moral and principled leadership.


Perhaps the area where we most need a dramatic change in our foreign policy is to be proactive rather than reactive in our peacemaking. Real resources and time, energy and commitment are needed to help shape the kind of world we want to see. The United States did this at the end of World War II. We invested in the future by helping transform former enemies into stable and durable democracies.

How can we recapture that spirit today? The Bush Administration has requested and received an astounding $80 BILLION dollars from Congress as a supplemental appropriation for the war on Iraq and the long and costly reconstruction process that will follow. But we are unable to mobilize even a fraction of that for proactive approaches to invest to prevent such military conflict in the future. This is incredibly short sighted.

A foreign policy of peacemaking must recognize and take the case to the American people that we simply cannot wait until the next terrorist attack or rogue regime threatens us. We must work proactively to prevent conflicts and to work against the root causes of despair - and they are legion. Overall, our nation’s budget priorities are way out of line. At a time of war, the Administration proposes a fiscally irresponsible tax cut of a staggering $726 billion. Rather than pursuing even the compromise Senate proposal for half that amount - still an enormous $350 billion - we need to allocate our resources to uses that will genuinely protect our interests and our security.

We should establish and invest $50 billion in a Peace Promotion and War Prevention Fund to engage in proactive peacemaking by addressing the root causes of war and conflict. In our interdependent world, we must match our investment in war fighting and defense spending - which dwarfs that of all other nations - with investments in peace building and conflict prevention. In the spirit of the Marshall Plan, a half century ago, a Peace Promotion and War Prevention Fund could be devoted to improving health conditions and educational opportunity for the world’s poorest citizens. Working through effective NGOs and international organizations, as well as U.S. aid channels, we should target our resources to improving economic opportunity, good governance, and human rights observance. Increased funding of microenterprise lending and other effective anti-poverty programs could assist hard-working individuals who need a helping hand to improve their families’ situation.

Contrary to the average American’s popular belief, U.S. expenditures for development and institution building are paltry. On a per capita basis, we greatly trail the investments of many other countries around the world. We spend $80-100 billion to prosecute an elective war with Iraq, and yet we devote barely $10 billion annually for all our development assistance - little more than one tenth of one percent of our GNP. Tragically, we get in a cycle where we intervene to expend tens of billions to fight elective wars but take a pass on the ongoing battles we could fight against injustice, inequality, poverty and despair that fuel armed conflicts.


The principles of a peace-centered foreign policy that I have just outlined can guide us as we approach the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq. Many of us who did not support this war are eager to shape the peace and to make it an enduring and just new opportunity for the millions of Iraqis who have suffered for decades from the effects of dictatorship, wars, and sanctions. Our tax dollars have supported the "shock and awe" campaign that rained destruction on Iraq. Now, in the aftermath of conflict, what is needed is a new definition of "shock and awe" occasioned by a flood of humanitarian and development assistance.

The challenges are enormous, and the needs great. The Iraqi civilian population, heavily dependent before the war on UN-provided assistance through the Oil for Food Program, are highly vulnerable and in need of massive assistance to survive. Half of Iraqis are children under 18 years old, and even before the war, Iraq had one of the world's worst child mortality rates: one in eight children died before age five. In the wake of war, infrastructure and distribution systems have been badly damaged. Water and electricity are in short supply. Hospitals are bursting with thousands of casualties of war. Massive intervention is needed to prevent an even graver humanitarian disaster.

As the U.S. fulfills our responsibilities under the Geneva Convention for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population, we would do well to conform to the guidelines of a peace-centered foreign policy. For, to be successful, our efforts must be multilateral, reaching out to all key players with expertise in disaster relief, and we must be firmly engaged for the long term. In restoring civil order and strengthening Iraqi civilian capacity for internal security, we need to help build sustainable conditions for collective security. Our efforts need to be fully consistent with our values and ideals, and we need to be proactively engaged to build the foundations of an enduring peace in Iraq. This cannot be done instantly or on the cheap. This will require a long-term patient commitment of time, training and expenditures.

Most importantly, as we move into the enormous challenges of reconstruction and relief in post-war Iraq, the rebuilding of Iraq must be a multilateral, United Nations-led effort in its planning, leadership and implementation. The U.S. has an obligation - and being the first on the ground, is of course best positioned -- to stabilize internal security and begin to help provide basic emergency services to restore water and electricity supplies. But reconstruction needs to be international: as soon as conditions allow, these roles should be handed over to civil agencies and non-governmental organizations. It cannot be a U.S.-military project.

Reconstruction of post-war Iraq will have a lasting impact on U.S.-Arab relations for decades. Already U.S.-Arab relations are poisoned, but if the U.S. comes to be seen as an occupying power in a prominent Muslim country, this will fuel a wave of new acts of terrorism against us.

A delicate balance must be maintained in the "nation building" exercise we have entered. After two generations of Baath Party rule, Iraq has no institutions of democratic civil society, and we need to allow time for the Iraqi people themselves to choose indigenous leaders who can genuinely represent their concerns and interests. Diverse commentators have noted that we cannot rush the process of having Iraq "select" its new leadership, and we should refrain from trying to impose a new government or rush to organize elections or write a constitution. This needs to be developed by Iraqis over time, rather than having an American-style solution imposed on them.

This makes it all the more critical that the U.S.-led coalitionquickly stabilize law and order in Iraq and then promptly turn over political and economic administration of Iraq to an internationally recognized, interim authority led by the United Nations. Similar to the process in Afghanistan, Iraq needs a transitional leadership structure led by the UN to bring together a broad-based interim authority comprising leaders from among Iraqis in country and those who have been in exile. . Advisory councils should be set up to allow for broad input from new provincial officials. Both the process of postwar administration of Iraq and the reconstruction effort must be truly international efforts, led by the UN.


In the aftermath of this war, in addition to engaging to win the peace in Iraq, where does a policy of peace take us? What are the challenges for those of us espousing peace in the months ahead? I believe there are three particular campaigns we need to wage: 1) We must thoroughly rebut and prevent a recurrence of military action according to the preemptive war doctrine. 2) We need to articulate our vision - and take action - to engage proactively in peacemaking to prevent conflicts like this in the future. 3) We need to mobilize a broad peace coalition, drawing on faith communities and other advocates for peace and justice, to build support for a foreign policy of peace, rather than a foreign policy of military preemption.

First of all, we need to discredit the terribly flawed logic of the Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy. Pursuing a policy of preemptive strikes against our adversaries is a path fraught with peril. Already the true believers in the Bush Administration are talking about ways to use the Iraq war to further their campaign to intimidate and coerce others in their growing "axis of evil." But actions against Syria, Iran or North Korea would be even more unwise than our unilateral war against Iraq, which at least was covered by the fig leaf of twelve years of UN Security Council resolutions.

The collateral damage from such a unilateral campaign of preemption is exceedingly dangerous. India, Pakistan, Russia, China are only a few of the armed and dangerous powers that could use our action as precedent for their own preemptions. We need to discredit this flawed policy, which is without root in American history or values. Force should used in self- defense, not in response to a hypothetical threat that could one day threaten us.

Secondly, let us take action to make peace a reality in communities around the world - particularly looking for ways to build sustainable roots for peace in conflictive areas. In order to prevent the need for military strikes in future crises, we need to first deploy a wide range of American "peacemakers" in order to strike against poverty, unjust rule, human rights violations and despair.

And lastly, at this time in our history, when President Bush has imposed his vision of unilateralism on us, we need more than ever, to look to our faith communities as advocates for peace and justice in our country and in its policies toward the rest of the world. As head of the National Council of Churches, I stand with our 36 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations and with many other religious bodies in calling for a new peace-centered foreign policy for our nation.

For many of us the past few weeks have been a harsh reminder that our vision of peace is not yet the dominant view in our land. But I have been encouraged by the tremendous outpouring of concern we have witnessed. The past nine months have been a time when the voice of faith has been heard in the land. Many of us have emerged with our faith tested and strengthened, our resolve to be a prophetic voice undiminished, and our organizational capacity enhanced. As we move forward to the new challenges of making our vision of peace the new paradigm, we have much to build on.

As a person of faith, I believe we must first of all pray together for an end to the policy of seeking violent solutions to the world’s problems. We must pray for a just and lasting peace in Iraq and throughout the world. The empowered by prayer, we need to work for peace in practical ways to make a just and lasting peace a reality. Our system of government is responsive to those who organize and publicly express their views. Those of us who want to make a foreign policy of peace a reality must work to translate our views and hopes into politically relevant actions.

Over the next two months, the National Council of Churches, in cooperation with the U.S. Catholic Conference and major American Jewish and Muslim groups, is organizing to proclaim an ecumenical message of tolerance and hope for a sustainable just peace. On April 29-30 in Chicago we will hold a National Interfaith Summit to call for tolerance and principles of a peace-centered policies. We are organizing an International Interfaith Summit to provide a sustained forum for expanding understanding and interfaith respect to prevent the Iraqi war from further festering into a source of interfaith distrust and hatred. This is our vision, and we intend to work to make it a reality in our world.

When the going is hard, we will be strengthened if we remember that ours is a prophetic vision that has guided and shaped civilization for millennia. Sometimes in the despair or frustration of the moment it is easy to forget that. But our vision dates from time immemorial and is enshrined in the world’s great faith traditions.

Chiseled into the walls at United Nations headquarters in New York are words taken from the Old Testament prophet Micah: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

That is our vision, and in our world today, we need more than ever to be dedicated to making it a reality. Let us join hands together in that effort.


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