The Rev. Dr.
Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader, is the
ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of
Christ in the USA.
The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
Christians at war
New York, August 13, 2008 -- Russia's attack on Georgia is a disheartening reminder that the 21st century remains a primitive age of fanatical nationalism and military bullying.
Even more distressing is the fact that both Russia and Georgia are Christian nations with ancient church roots. Church leaders and laity in both nations have courageously borne witness to the Gospel of Christ in the halls of political power, but their words have gone unheeded.
Political leaders in Russia and Georgia -- indeed in many other nations including our own -- seek to justify military interventions on the grounds of national interest or public security. In general the churches of Christ reject such puerile political rationalizations.
The Orthodox Peace Fellowship has been particularly clear in condemning the conflict in Georgia as "a sin and a scandal."
Orthodox Christians and all of the 35 diverse traditions that compose the National Council of Churches testify that our Creator is a God of love who came to us in human form to save us from destruction, calling on us to love god and one another. The military intervention in Georgia, like all actions born of hatred or callous self-interest, is an act of madness, a senseless rejection of God's love and salvation.
This commitment to peace with justice is a basic tenet of the churches' movement toward visible unity. The delegates to the World Council of Churches' founding assembly in Amsterdam in 1948 put it succinctly: "War is contrary to the will of God." War may at times be a necessary evil, but it is inherently evil. Christians must never identify violence against others with the will of God or countenance such rhetoric when used by their governments. God's purpose is shalom. We do not go to war in the name of God.
We welcome signs that the conflict in Georgia is ebbing, but we note that the underlying causes of nationalism and ethnocentrism -- corruptions of the Gospel of Christ -- remain in place. It is deeply disturbing to note that the brutality in Georgia is part of a world-wide trend. Every day we hear reports of military intervention and violence in the Philippines, in Sri Lanka, in Sudan and Darfur, in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. There is also considerable suffering in Afghanistan and Iraq, although our media's preoccupation with those conflicts distracts us from suffering in other nations.
Our fervent prayer is that people of good will throughout the world will awaken to the fact that injustice and hatred are the greatest dangers we face, and that war, violence and the abuse of power are the markers of our destruction.
As Americans, we pray that our country will learn the ways of peace and restore its reputation as a credible witness for restraint and nonviolence.
We pray out of a knowledge that the suffering in war can never be understood by those who have not experienced it -- the nauseating, incapacitating fear, the horror of seeing loved ones dismembered and dying, the suffocating stench in the aftermath of battle. We pray for all who suffer in times of armed conflict, especially the young, the old, the innocent bystanders. We pray for those who put on their country's uniform and trust that the jobs they are sent to do are necessary and just.
We also pray for the discernment and courage of church and religious leaders and persons of faith in nations that struggling with these issues. We pray for political leaders throughout the world, that they may hear God's still but persistent voice when they face difficult decisions for the welfare of their nation. We pray for a time when military intervention is no longer considered a reasonable solution to political problems, and when those who decide to go to war are regarded as criminally unbalanced.
We pray for a peace that is more than an absence of war. We pray for a peace that is founded on God's love and built on our love for one another. We pray for a peace that stills the turbulence in our souls. We pray for the peace that passes all understanding.
National Council of Churches
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