Church leaders condemn rush to war with Iraq

Published November 1, 2002

Christian leaders including the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) have criticized the impetus towards a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser termed military action ?illegal, immoral and unwise.?

In Canada, 16 church leaders, including Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, have signed a letter urging Prime Minister Jean Chretien to seek a diplomatic solution to the Iraq situation.

?We write ? to cry no to such a war. This is a time for intense diplomacy and face-to-face negotiations, not for missiles and high-altitude bombing. This is especially a time for multilateralism: the world needs wisdom from every region if we are to grasp the full consequences of the choices confronting us,? the letter read.

The churches urged Mr. Chretien to support a negotiated, peace-building approach ?consistent with international law and taking the common good of Iraq?s people as its starting point.?

The letter was also signed by the leaders of the Roman Catholic, United, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran, Mennonite, Armenian Orthodox and other churches. The ecumenical social-justice groups Project Ploughshares and Kairos also signed.

Internationally, a number of denominations issued statements opposing an invasion. In recent weeks, the United States, noting that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had expelled United Nations weapons inspectors and is building biological and nuclear weapons, has urged the U.N. to lead an attack aimed at deposing Saddam.

U.S. President George Bush has said he will act alone if necessary. British Prime Minister Tony Blair supports him and was planning to meet with religious leaders, including incoming Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to try to win their support.

Archbishop Williams said this fall that a ?pre-emptive strike on a supposed threat is a deeply destabilizing matter.?

In the United States, Episcopalian bishops endorsed a statement telling President Bush: ?We deeply respect the seriousness of your responsibility to protect the lives of our citizens and, with you, we condemn the brutality of Saddam Hussein.?

It added, ?we do not believe that war with Iraq can be justified at this time.? The statement noted that Iraq has not attacked the United States and ?our nation has not exhausted all possibilities for a peaceful solution.?


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