1998 NCC News Archives

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A Statement on Behalf of Those Who Suffer
Occasioned by United States Military Action Against Iraq
December 18, 1998

Although the people figure little in the calculations of the powerful, they loom large in the conscience of the faithful and in Christian compassion. We speak now to give voice again to convictions born of faith, admittedly at odds with the computations of power. Yet we believe faith more than muscle gives sure safe ground on which all people, the weak as well as the powerful, ourselves as well as our designated enemies, can stand:

"Glory to God in the highest...and on earth peace...."  Barely one month ago in the face of the confrontation of the United States and Iraq, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) called upon President Clinton not to attack Iraq but to seek new ways to return Iraq to the community of nations. Today as people of faith we renew that call: stop the new and massive missile attacks that have been launched against the leaders and inescapably the people of Iraq.

We deeply regret the refusal of Iraqi leadership to allow unlimited weapons inspections, in keeping with commitments previously made to the United Nations (UN) General Secretary. We oppose the choice of our government to terminate the pursuit of diplomatic alternatives and perhaps thereby to critically wound any returning to a course of pursuing a responsible place for Iraq in the international community.

On behalf of its 35 member church bodies, the NCCCUSA has long provided material aid as well as moral and spiritual encouragement to the people of Iraq and broadly throughout the Middle East, collaboratively with the Middle East Council of Churches. These human ties once again inform what we must say here on behalf of those who suffer there.

At the center of their faiths, Jews, Christians and Muslims are continually called to lives of peacefulness, forgiveness, generosity and hope. But now the people of Iraq are again the hapless victims of defiance, diplomatic failure, conflict of traditions and aggressive military actions. In the past eight years more than one million people in Iraq, mostly children, women, the weak and the vulnerable, have died directly as a result of economic sanctions. Change in these death-creating sanctions currently depends on the work of the weapons inspectors. But this has now been ended, and death to people continues. There is greater suffering and little hope. This is wrong!

We continue to believe that the UN offers the best hope for an internationally-supported resolution of the problem of human suffering. We urge the United States along with the leaders of all nations to enable the UN to resume its diplomatic role without delay.

In summary, as people of Christian faith:

(1) We call for an end to the bombing of Iraq.
(2) We call for an immediate resumption of the international diplomatic efforts through the United Nations.
(3) We call for the government of Iraq to cooperate fully, without conditions, with UN weapons inspections.
(4) We call again for an end unconditionally to economic sanctions against Iraq, and for a new search for ways to return Iraq to the community of nations.
(5) We assure the Christian communities throughout the Middle East, especially our friends and colleagues in the Middle East Council of Churches, that we as a Christian community here are calling on our government to end all military actions wherein Iraqi people, not their political leadership, become the vulnerable and exhausted victims. 

May God give us strength to follow the wisdom of our faith, and may God give strength and comfort to the Iraqi people in the face of what they endure day by day.

(The Rev. Dr.) Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

-end-

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