From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists to participate in peace mission to Iraq

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 19 Dec 2002 15:14:52 -0600

Dec. 19, 2002	News media contact: Joretta Purdue7(202) 546-87227Washington 

NOTE: Photographs of Bishop Melvin Talbert, Jim Winkler and the Rev. Robert
Edgar are available. 

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Four United Methodists will go to Iraq shortly after
Christmas on an ecumenical peace mission coordinated by the U.S. National
Council of Churches and hosted by the Middle East Council of Churches.

Thirteen participants are slated to leave Dec. 27 and return Jan. 3.

The Rev. Robert Edgar, chief executive of the NCC and a United Methodist
clergyman, will lead the group. The delegation's goal is to illustrate the
impacts of war through the human faces of women and children in Iraq. 

"We have seen plenty of pictures of Saddam Hussein holding up a rifle," Edgar
said. "I want the American public to see the people of Iraq who will be most
affected by war - especially the children."

The group does not intend to meet with any high officials in the Iraq
government, participants have noted. They do plan to meet with religious
leaders to discuss the ongoing threat of war, and with organizations and
groups working for reconciliation, peace and justice, and the promotion and
protection of human rights.  

Group members will seek to better understand the ways in which churches in
the United States and the Middle East, including Iraq, can work together to
strengthen the response to the now 20-year humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council
of Bishops, said one goal of the trip will be to offer pastoral support and
express solidarity with Christians and other faith communities in Iraq.

Talbert undertook a similar peace mission in December 1990, going to Baghdad
with other religious leaders in the month before the Persian Gulf War. He has
said he learned then that there were many people in the Middle East praying
and hoping to avoid war.

"We will be expressing particular concern for the children of Iraq, as we
have done these many years that they have been suffering as the result of war
and the sanctions and because of the misrule of Saddam Hussein," said Jim
Winkler, staff head of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

He expects to meet with Christians, who, he said, are a significant
population in that country and are very concerned about the possibility of a
war being inflicted upon them in the coming weeks and months. "Modern war and
the weapons that our nation has developed are so incredibly powerful that it
seems apparent that no matter how well targeted they may be, we know that
there will be accidents, and innocent people are going to die if a war is
carried out.

"Our board and the Council of Bishops, other boards and agencies, (and) most
denominations in this country have concluded that this is not going to be a
just war," Winkler said. "The church is in the forefront of efforts for
peace. It always should be in the forefront of efforts for peace."

The Rev. Ray A. Buchanan, a United Methodist clergyman and head of Stop
Hunger Now, a nonprofit international relief organization, said he is
thrilled to be part of the mission. "Now is the perfect time for such a
visit. We have a chance to show the world that the people of Iraq can not be
characterized by their leader."

Buchanan hopes to visit with the Dominican Sisters, through whom Stop Hunger
Now has sent food to feed young girls in two orphanages there. He said he has
learned from the sisters the havoc and suffering already being experienced by
the common people there.

"It's critical for the church to play a role in trying to put a face on the
situation," Buchanan said. "The humanitarian situation in Iraq is deplorable
and getting worse. War will just exacerbate that."

Others in the mission group are mainly from religious groups, including
Presbyterian, Episcopal and Unitarian organizations. One is an academic and
another is a communications specialist.

# # #

United Methodist News Service
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