From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Pastoral letter on Bosnia
20 May 1996 14:41:33
Here is a UCC press release on a pastoral statement on
Dec. 7, 1995
Office of Communication
United Church of Christ
Barb Powell, press contact
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Clifford L. Willis
(317) 635-3113, ext. 207
Church leaders release pastoral letter supporting peacemaking
process in Bosnia-Herzegovina
CLEVELAND -- The leaders of two mainline Protestant
denominations today (Dec. 7) sent a pastoral letter to church
members supporting the newly reached Dayton peace accord,
stating that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to use its
power positively toward the achievement of peace, and urging
prayer for the peacekeepers and their families.
The letter, sent by the Rev. Richard L. Hamm, general
minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ) and the Rev. Paul H. Sherry, president of the United
Church of Christ, urges Congressional leaders to approve and
support U.S. participation in the peacekeeping force under NATO
"We acknowledge that the agreement does not achieve
perfect justice . . . Nevertheless, what is most needed now is a
secure peace" offering the opportunity for the people of Bosnia-
Herzegovina to rebuild their lives and society, the leaders
wrote. "We affirm the Dayton peace accord as the most hopeful
means to achieve that end."
The leaders also cautioned that the accord does not
resolve all of the questions arising from the conflict, and said
that the investigation of war crimes and violations of human
rights should continue.
"Not all issues of the conflict are within the power or
authority of the U.S. to resolve. The one step, however, which
at this time is most urgent and is within U.S. capability, is
full participation in the peacekeeping force," the letter
Hamm and Sherry also asked members to pray for the
peacekeepers, their families and the military chaplains from the
The 1.5-million-member United Church of Christ, with
national offices in Cleveland, and the 1.1-million-member
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), with general offices in
Indianapolis, have been in an ecumenical partnership since 1985.
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[EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: Here is the full text of the pastoral
letter on peacemaking in Bosnia-Herzegovina, sent today (Dec. 7)
by the Rev. Richard L. Hamm and the Rev. Paul H. Sherry to
members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the
United Church of Christ.]
"One of the biblical texts for the Second Sunday of Advent
offers a vision of the day when `they shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain; for earth will be full of the knowledge
of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Isaiah 11:9). We
welcome with gratitude and hope the agreement reached in Dayton
to end the hurt and destruction that has consumed
Bosnia-Herzegovina in three-and-a-half years of genocidal
inter-communal conflict leaving a quarter million dead, millions
displaced from their ancestral homes, and inflicting intolerable
human suffering and physical destruction. This war has been
marked by the most heinous crimes, such as `ethnic cleansing,'
the use of systematic rape as an instrument of war policy and
detention of prisoners in inhuman conditions of deprivation. To
a people weary of waiting amid deep shadows, the promise of
peace is a healing gift of grace.
"The agreement which has been negotiated to maintain
Bosnia-Herzegovina as a single state satisfies some of the
essential aims of each party and involves some concessions by
each. We acknowledge that the agreement does not achieve
perfect justice in light of the reprehensible evils which have
occurred. In truth, no solution could justly compensate the
people of Bosnia-Herzegovina for all they have endured.
Nevertheless, what is most needed now is a secure peace,
offering the opportunity for their lives and their society to be
rebuilt. We affirm the Dayton peace accord as the most hopeful
available means to achieve that end. While any peacekeeping
effort runs significant risks in this volatile region, the
humanitarian need to stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing and
to build the capacity for multi-national peacekeeping operations
makes the risks worth taking. At this time, therefore, it is
crucially important that all concerned support and contribute to
the full implementation of the peace accord.
"As Congress now considers the question of U.S.
participation in the peacekeeping force under NATO command and
at the invitation of the governments directly involved, we
consider a decision to approve and support that participation to
be imperative. The U.S.' leadership role in the world today
places on it the moral responsibility to use its power
positively toward the achievement of peace. This goal at the
same time serves indispensably the vital interests of the U.S.
as well as of all peoples of the world. The successful
implementation of the peace accord in Bosnia-Herzegovina is
essential not only for the welfare of those directly concerned,
but also for the prevention of any further extension of this
conflict, as well as for the establishment of a positive
precedent for the resolution of disputes elsewhere by
negotiation rather than by force.
"The Dayton accord does not finally resolve all questions
arising from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. For one,
the investigation of war crimes and violations of human rights,
leading to prosecution and punishment of those guilty, is still
in progress and should continue. Not all issues of the conflict
are within the power or authority of the U.S. to resolve. The
one step, however, which at this time is most urgent and is
within U.S. capability, is full participation in the
peacekeeping force. This step, of course, involves great
sacrifice for the soldiers who will be going to
Bosnia-Herzegovina and for their families. The separation from
loved ones, and anxiety for their safety, is particularly
difficult during the Christmas celebration. We ask you to
remember especially the members of the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ who will
be serving as peacekeepers, their families, and the military
chaplains of our two churches who will help care for them.
"Finally, let us remember that the true peace we yearn for
is in the Christ whose birth we celebrate and whose coming we
await. As our nation prepares to take on the risks of
peacemaking for the sake of vulnerable and hurting sisters and
brothers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, let us prepare ourselves for the
One who comes as our judge and our savior, that, in the words of
Paul, we may be filled `with all joy and peace in believing
. . . abounding in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit'
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