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In Berlin, NCC Delegation Meets With Church Leaders From
Europe and Middle East, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

Related Story:   Statement Adopted by the Berlin Conferees

The Berlin consultation on the Iraq crisis. Left to right:  Konrad Raiser World Council of Churches), German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Bob Edgar (National Council of Churches US), Bishop Walter Klaiber (Council of Christian Churches in Germany), Archbishop Feofan (Russian Orthodox Church, Berlin and Germany), Präses Manfred Kock (Evangelical Church in Germany).
In the photos: Left, the church leaders from ten European nations, the U.S., and the Middle East gathered for discussions and prayer for peace.  At right, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder held a lengthy conversation with NCC's Bob Edgar and other representatives of the ecumenical gathering.   Photos © Andreas Schölzer EPD / WCC

BERLIN, Germany, Feb. 5 -- A delegation from the National Council of Churches met in Berlin Feb.5 with 15 of their European and Middle East counterparts to discuss their mutual concerns about a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Following a press conference, they had a one-hour private conversation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

At the same time the religious group was meeting in Berlin, the United Nations Security Council was hearing a report by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, making the Bush Administration’s case for an invasion.

Chancellor Schroeder, whom the group said spoke "frankly and clearly," reaffirmed his intention to maintain Germany’s stance that there is no compelling reason to rush to war with Iraq. He emphasized that he "is no pacifist" but that Germany believes "war should not be just one more tool" to be used routinely, the delegates reported.

Schroeder reminded the church officials that he had staked his career on changing German foreign policy to allow the deployment of 10,000 troops now on the ground in Afghanistan and the Balkans, but that his government did not think the use of military force would be useful in the Iraqi case.

The delegation said Shroeder emphasized that Germany is not taking an "anti-American" position, nor does it lack a commitment to fighting terrorism. He said Germany simply disagrees on the necessity of going to war with Iraq, they reported.

The American delegation, led by General Secretary Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches, included James Winkler of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, and Rebecca Larson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

They thanked the Europeans for inviting them to Berlin, and for the expressed desire to work closely with American churches, Winkler said. 

Delegation members said they were surprised by the extensive media interest in the meeting.  The press conference was documented by 14 television cameras and approximately 40 reporters.  In a statement released to reporters, the group of religious leaders deplored "that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy. This creates an international culture of fear, threat and insecurity." 

The European meeting was convened by the World Council of Churches at the initiative of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland. In addition to their German hosts, the meeting drew church officials from ten other countries – France, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. The Middle East Council of Churches was also represented.

The National Council of Churches visit to Berlin is the first of five such missions to major European capitals planned by American church leaders. Other cities will include Paris, London, Moscow and Rome, NCC’s Edgar said.

"In the absence of compelling evidence that Iraq poses an imminent military threat, we will continue to press for a peaceful solution in which the innocent families of Iraq are spared the terrible scourge of war," said Dr. Edgar.

"Even in the face of the Administration’s insistence that a war is unavoidable," he continued, "we believe America can win without war." 

Related Story:  Statement Adopted by the Berlin Conferees.   

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