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NCC USA Addresses Concerns -- and a Ray of Hope -- in the Middle East

December 11, 2003, NEW YORK CITY – In a statement released today, the National Council of Churches U.S.A. addressed concerns about the deaths of children in U.S. bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and about the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  At the same time, it described “a ray of hope” for Israel / Palestine in the development of the Geneva Accord.

The full statement follows.

Unfortunate Developments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a Ray of Hope in Israel / Palestine

This week’s unfortunate developments in both Afghanistan and Iraq compel people of good will to question once again the Administration’s policies, as well as the moral and ethical foundations of its plans.  A ray of hope in this sea of darkness, oddly enough, comes out of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, and the Administration’s approach to it, with the development of the Geneva Accord.

Two separate U.S. bombing campaigns in Afghanistan have resulted in the death of several children.  Such tragic incidents remind us that, while the U.S. planned and executed the war in Afghanistan with precision, it left the aftermath of the war underplanned and underfunded, and therefore subjected the innocent people of that beleaguered nation – and our own military personnel – to unnecessary danger.

With regard to Iraq, the latest development concerns the arrogance and lack of foresight with which the U.S. government is pursuing economic reconstruction.  News reports tell us that the Defense Department is now excluding from the bidding process on necessary and lucrative contracts all corporations from countries that did not support the war in that country. 

At a time when the U.S. should be intentionally and vigorously seeking a multi-lateral approach to rebuilding Iraq, it instead compromises the success of reconstruction by repeating the unilateral policies that have created worldwide ill will toward our country.   As indicated by initial reactions from some of our closest allies, this latest move by the Pentagon will undermine the hopes for international fence mending and future good will that could be the result of fair and honest competition and cooperation. 

In contrast to these developments, the Administration’s policy toward the Israeli – Palestinian conflict offers some hope to the people of the Middle East.  The U.S. promotion of the “road map” to peace is an ongoing motivation to all parties to seek resolution to this long-standing conflict.  Of more immediate reassurance is the Administration’s implicit support, through the State Department, of the Geneva Accord.

The National Council of Churches encourages serious consideration of the Geneva Accord as a means of moving toward a peaceful and just resolution to the long-standing conflict in Israel / Palestine.  In the troubled history of this conflict, the NCC has always advocated for a resolution that guarantees the security concerns of the Israelis and the right to a state for the Palestinians.  Such a resolution includes the promotion of a shared Jerusalem, in which the tradition and promise of the three monotheistic faiths indigenous to the area are honored and the religious communities and sacred sites are protected.

The Geneva Accord offers a glimmer of hope at a time when the darkness of despair seems to be overcoming the entire Middle East.  We therefore implore all parties involved in the conflict, and especially our own government, to continue to see the possibility of peace inherent in this Accord and work to make this possibility a reality. And we urge the U.S. government to rethink its ill-conceived policies and plans for reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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