From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Mission agency adds voice to concern over Iraq
Fri, 25 Oct 2002 14:25:52 -0500
Oct. 25, 2002 News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York
STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has
added its voice to denominational groups concerned about the threat of war
During its Oct. 21-24 annual meeting, the mission agency also called for a
more equitable treatment of refugees and immigrants by the U.S. government
and heard an analysis of the current situation regarding North Korea and
that country's recent admission that it has nuclear weapon capabilities from
a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
In its call on United Methodists to be peacemakers, board directors invoked
the denomination's Social Principles, which proclaim that "war is
incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ" and points to the
moral duty of all nations to resolve disputes by peaceful means.
"We stand with churches throughout the world who are speaking out against
war," said the Board of Global Ministries' resolution on Iraq. "We pray
especially for the people of Iraq and stand in solidarity with all whose
lives are at risk from war."
Bishop Joel Martmnez, board president, reminded directors that God's love is
available to all people, regardless of whether they live in Boston or
Baghdad. "Let others define the enemy," he said. "We live out the Gospel of
Jesus Christ, who loves all of God's children."
The board's resolution asks United Methodists, both as individuals and
congregations, to pray for leaders of various nations to work toward peace
and for those in the armed forces "who could be placed unnecessarily in
harm's way and might be under orders to commit acts that violate the Gospel,
church teachings, their conscience and international law."
Church members are urged to contact all governments and express opposition
to the use of pre-emptive military strikes; call upon the Iraqi government
to allow U.N. weapon inspectors back into that country; and call for the
immediate lifting of all economic sanctions against Iraq.
The resolution advocates better media coverage of the debate about Iraq,
including coverage of voices for peace and the potential war's impact on
civilians. United Methodists are asked to write letters to media outlets and
legislators, hold educational events and public prayer vigils to express
their commitment to peace and form covenant groups in local congregations
for prayer and peacemaking actions.
Church members also can contribute to a fund that the United Methodist
Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is establishing-- Emergency Advance No.
623225-4-- to help "communities at risk of displacement and disruption by
economic sanctions, war and possible occupation."
The board's resolution on immigration and refugees was prompted by concern
about U.S. government actions against those groups in the wake of security
concerns following last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It noted that, although refugees already have been thoroughly screened, they
have been subject to such lengthy additional security measures that 42,000
out of an approved government total of 70,000 will be unable to travel to
the United States this year. Directors called upon President Bush to take
steps to ensure that all 70,000 refugees are admitted.
The resolution also calls upon President Bush and the U.S. attorney general
"to work with Congress to ensure a more equitable balance between the
nation's security needs and the safeguarding of human and civil rights of
all which is fundamental to our democratic way of life." Specifically, it
asks that the Immigration and Naturalization Service be reorganized to
separate and adequately fund its service and enforcement functions and that
the Executive Office of Immigration Review not be a part of the new
Department of Homeland Security.
United Methodists can assist immigrants and refugees in a variety of ways
through UMCOR programs, the resolution added.
North Korea was the subject of an informal lunch discussion and an evening
presentation, both featuring the Rev. James Laney, a United Methodist pastor
and educator who served as U.S. Ambassador to South Korea from 1993-97. Also
highlighted were reflections from a seven-member Board of Global Ministries
delegation that visited North Korea last July.
Laney, whose involvement with the Korean peninsula has spanned more than 50
years, said he had been hopeful recently about North Korea's progress under
Kim Jong II as it showed signs of serious economic reform, made plans with
South Korea for a rail link with the two countries through the Demilitarized
Zone (DMZ) and allowed its athletes to participate in "ping-pong diplomacy,
brought up to date."
Relations with South Korea had improved and were beginning to change with
Japan, especially after the North Korean government apologized for long-ago
kidnappings of Japanese citizens, an apology that previously would have been
"unthinkable" for that regime, Laney said.
So when North Korean officials admitted in October - after a confrontation
with James A. Kelley, a senior U.S. diplomat - that it had been conducting a
secret program to develop nuclear weapons over the past few years, it was a
"bombshell" to the U.S. government and a revelation that brought heartache
and dismay to the former ambassador.
Laney, who currently is co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations Task
Force on Korea, believes North Korea may have decided not to deny evidence
of its nuclear program so that the United States would be forced to deal
with the country rather than ignore it.
Whatever the intention, it flies in the face of a declared policy of zero
tolerance for nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, according to Laney.
"This is a breach of repeated agreements," he said, as well as "a terrible
slap in the face to Kim Dae Jung of South Korea."
Although most believe that North Korea has used weapon development as a
deterrent rather than an act of aggression, the fact remains that it has
enough missiles to cover the entire geographic area of Japan and could
easily destroy the large metropolis of Seoul in the South, he added.
Because of drought and its economic woes, North Korea has relied on aid from
the U.S., Europe, and South Korea to feed its 22 million people and just
last month signed an agreement with Japan that included provisions for
loans. But now these countries, along with Russia and China, have to decide
how to handle the nuclear issue, Laney said.
The former ambassador noted that he does not like to think ill of North
Korea, but acknowledged he is often "bitterly disappointed" by that
"I don't know how, but I still think something can be worked out," he added.
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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