From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church Leaders United Against War in Iraq

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Wed, 5 Feb 2003 15:42:26 -0600


February 5, 2003


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Three U.S. church leaders, including a
representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),
joined 22 church leaders in Europe and the Middle East in opposing
war in Iraq and calling for a peaceful resolution of conflicts.
     The Rev. Rebecca S. Larson, executive director for the ELCA
Division for Church in Society, attended the Feb. 5 meeting on behalf
of the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop.  The meeting
occurred hours before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to
the U.N. Security Council in New York, in which he presented evidence
the Bush Administration said shows Iraq is not complying with United
Nations requirements to disarm.
     The five-hour meeting of church leaders in Berlin, Germany, was
convened by the World Council of Churches in consultation with the
Conference of European Churches, the National Council of Churches of
Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches,
hosted by the Evangelical Church in Germany.
     In a statement issued after the meeting, the leaders deplored
the fact that the United States and other nations "regard war as an
acceptable instrument of foreign policy" and rejected the aims of the
United States to use a "pre-emptive military strike" to remove the
Iraqi regime.  They also called on the government of Iraq to comply
with U.N. demands that it destroy all weapons of mass destruction.
     Other U.S. church leaders who added their names to the
statement were the Rev. Robert W. Edgar, NCC general secretary, and
James E. Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and
Society of the United Methodist Church.
     The meeting included about 30 people, Larson said in a
telephone interview from Berlin.  The meeting was "important" for all
who attended and was "extremely important to the European churches,"
she said.
     "There is no issue that has united the churches as opposition
to war in Iraq," Larson said.  The church leaders planned to meet the
same day with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Larson added.
     The European church leaders, in consultation with U.S. and
Middle East councils of churches, said they "remain extremely
concerned with the continued calls for military action against Iraq
by the U.S. and some European governments," according to the
     "As people of faith, our love of neighbor compels us to oppose
war and to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts," the statement
said. "As churches we pray for peace and freedom, justice and safety
for the people of Iraq and in the Middle East as a whole.  Such
prayer obliges us to be instruments of peace."
     The leaders said they cannot accept the stated objectives of a
war against Iraq and U.N. weapons inspectors must be given time to
complete their work.  They also called on the government of Iraq "to
destroy any weapons of mass destruction and related research and
production facilities."  Iraq must cooperate fully with U.N. weapons
inspectors and guarantee full respect of the civil and political,
economic, social and cultural human rights for all its citizens, the
leaders' statement said.
     A war would have significant consequences, including large-
scale displacement of people, the breakdown of state functions, the
possibility of civil war and major unrest in the whole region, the
church leaders said.
     "The plight of Iraqi children and the unnecessary deaths of
hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the past 12 years...weighs
heavily on our hearts," the statement said. "In the present
situation, we strongly affirm long-standing humanitarian principles
of unconditional access to people in need."
     "For us it is a spiritual obligation, grounded in God's love
for all humanity, to speak out against war in Iraq. Through this
message we send a strong sign of solidarity and support, to churches
in Iraq, the Middle East and in the U.S.A. We pray that God will
guide those responsible to take decisions based on careful
reflections, moral principles and high legal standards. We invite all
churches to join us in this act of witness and to pray for and
encourage participation of all people in the struggle for a peaceful
resolution of this conflict," the statement concluded.
     * Philip E. Jenks is communications officer for the World
Council of Churches' U.S. office, New York.

     The full text of the church leaders statement can be found at
on the Web.

     Photos from the Berlin meeting can be found at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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