From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Religious leaders 'deplore' war as solution to Iraq crisis

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 6 Feb 2003 15:13:58 -0600

Feb. 6, 2003   News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212)870-38037New York

NOTE: The full text of the religious leaders' statement, along with a list of
signers, follows the end of this story.

By United Methodist News Service*

A group of U.S., European and Middle East church leaders, meeting in Berlin,
issued a statement opposing military action against Iraq the same day U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations.

"We deplore the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again
regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy," the Feb. 5
statement said. "This creates an international culture of fear, threat and

Three United Methodists - Bishop Walter Klaiber of Germany, James Winkler,
chief executive, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, and the Rev.
Robert Edgar, chief executive, U.S. National Council of Churches - were among
the 25 church leaders who gathered in Germany.

The brief emergency meeting was convened by the World Council of Churches, in
consultation with the Conference of European Churches, the National Council
of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, and hosted by the
Evangelical Church in Germany.
While characterizing military action as a means of regime change "immoral and
in violation of the U.N. charter," the church leaders also called upon the
Iraqi government to destroy any weapons of mass destruction, cooperate fully
with U.N. weapons inspectors and guarantee full respect of human rights for
all its citizens. "The people in Iraq must be given hope that there are
alternatives to both dictatorship and war," they said.

The church leaders met for a morning discussion and prayer service and
released their statement during an afternoon press conference. Later in the
day, they had an hour-long, closed-door meeting with German Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder.

Schroeder agreed with the church leaders' position on war in Iraq but
reminded the delegation that by joining actions in the Balkans and
maintaining troops in Afghanistan, he had changed the post-World War II
German tradition of non-involvement in military actions. He emphasized that
the German government does not want to hide from military commitments.

The church leaders and Schroeder agreed that the U.N. weapons inspectors in
Iraq should be given more time to do their work and that pressure should be
applied to destroy any weapons of mass destruction.

Edgar dismissed the idea that war is inevitable. "In the absence of
compelling evidence that Iraq poses an imminent military threat, we will
continue to press for a peaceful solution in which the innocent families of
Iraq are spared the terrible scourge of war," he said.

# # #

*The World Council of Churches provided information for this story.

The full text of the statement follows:

As European church leaders, in consultation with councils of churches in the
USA and the Middle East, we remain extremely concerned with the continued
calls for military action against Iraq by the U.S. and some European
governments. As people of faith, our love of neighbor compels us to oppose
war and to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts. 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. 

We deplore the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard
war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy. This creates an
international culture of fear, threat and insecurity.

We cannot accept the stated objectives of a war against Iraq, as laid out by
these governments, in particular the U.S. Pre-emptive military strike and war
as a means to change the regime of a sovereign state are immoral and in
violation of the U.N. Charter. We appeal to the Security Council to uphold
the principles of the U.N. Charter, which strictly limit the legitimate use
of military force, and to refrain from creating negative precedence and
lowering the threshold for using violent means to solve international

We believe that military force is an inappropriate means to achieve
disarmament of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. We insist that the
carefully designed mechanisms of the U.N. weapons inspections be given the
time needed to complete their work. 

All U.N. member states have to comply with binding U.N. resolutions and
resolve conflicts by peaceful means. Iraq can be no exception. We call 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 people
in Iraq must be given hope that there are alternatives to both dictatorship
and war. 

A war would have unacceptable humanitarian 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 plight of
Iraqi children and the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis
over the past 12 years of sanctions regime weigh heavily on our hearts. In
the present situation, we strongly affirm long-standing humanitarian
principles of unconditional access to people in need. 

We further caution against the potential social, cultural, and religious as
well as diplomatic long-term consequences of such a war. Further fueling the
fires of violence that are already consuming the region will only exacerbate
intense hatred strengthening extremist ideologies and breeding further global
instability and insecurity. As church leaders in Europe, we have a moral and
pastoral responsibility to challenge xenophobia in our own countries as well
as allay the fears of many in the Muslim world, that the so-called Western
Christianity is against their culture, religion and values. We should seek
co-operation for peace, justice and human dignity.

All governments, in particular the members of the Security Council, have the
responsibility to consider the whole complexity of this issue. All peaceful
and diplomatic means to compel Iraq to comply with U.N. Security Council
resolutions have not been exhausted.

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
USA. 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

List of participants 

Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches
of Christ in the USA

James Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church and

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Larson, executive director, Division for Church and Society,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches

Rev. Dr Keith Clements, general secretary of the Council of European Churches

Prdses Manfred Kock, president of the Council of the Evangelischen Kirche in
Deutschland (EKD) 

Bishop Dr. Walter Klaiber, head of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher
Kirchen in Deutschland (ACK) and Evangelical-Methodist Church (Germany)

Rev. Dr. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the Protestant Federation of

Bishop Mag. Herwig Sturm, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg and Helvetic
Confessions in Austria 

Rev. Thomas Wipf, president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches 

Bishop Jonas Jonson, bishop of the Church of Sweden 

Rev. Kjell Jonasson, Church of Sweden 

Rev. Canon Dr. Trond Bakkevig, Church of Norway 

Archbishop Jukka Parma, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 

Bishop Karsten Nissen, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark 

Dr. Alison Elliot, Church of Scotland and Churches Together in Scotland

Rev. Arie W. van der Plas, Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and Uniting
Protestant Churches in the Netherlands 

Archbishop Feofan, Russian Orthodox Church, archbishop of Berlin and Germany 

Bishop Athanasius of Achaja, Church of Greece 

Rev. Dr. Nuhad Daoud Tomeh, representing the General Secretariat of the
Middle East Council of Churches  

Mr. Thor-Arne Prvis, director of Action by Churches Together (ACT)
International, Geneva

Peter Weiderud, director, WCC Commission of the Churches on International

Bishop Dr. Rolf Koppe, Evangelical Church in Germany Secretariat

Rev. Dr. Christa Grengel, Evangelical Church in Germany Secretariat

Rev. Dr. Dagmar Heller, Evangelical Church in Germany Secretariat

United Methodist News Service
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