TAMPA, FL -- "Do all possible, without going to war," was the resolution of the National Council of Churches General Assembly today (Nov. 16). The assembly unanimously urged President Bush and Congress to make every effort to avoid war with Iraq.
Within the resolution, the assembly calls on President Bush and the Congress to recommit America to international institutions like the United Nations, and to work for the common security, peace, and justice worldwide in the wake of September 11, 2001.
In a joint resolution adopted overwhelmingly, the General Assembly noted that many of the NCC member churches, the NCC Executive board, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have each issued statements regarding concern over the proposed unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq.
The General Assembly expressly commended the statement released by the Conference of Catholic Bishops, and their declaration that ¡°Iraqi leadership must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its neighbors, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and destroy all such existing weapons." At the same time, the Assembly urged the Conference of Catholic Bishops to jointly press Iraq to comply fully with the Nov. 8, 2002, United Nations Security Resolution requiring Iraq to meet all of its disarmament obligations.
"We recognize that not taking military action could have its own negative consequences," the bishops resolved and the NCC General Assembly affirmed. "We are concerned, however, that war against Iraq could have unpredictable consequences not only for Iraq, but for peace and stability elsewhere in the Middle East. The use of force might provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent, could impose terrible new burdens on an already long-suffering civilian population, and could lead to wider conflict and instability in the region. War against Iraq could also detract from the responsibility to help build a just and stable order in Afghanistan and could undermine broader efforts to stop terrorism."
The National Council of Churches General Assembly expressed its intention "to work together with all peace-loving people of faith, to witness to our statements by appropriate action including dialogue with our congregations, with our public officials, visits to the people of Iraq, and consultation with Christian churches throughout the world, and to pray that the Lord will grant wisdom to our leaders as they face awesome responsibilities of life and death."
The full text of the resolution follows. See the NCC web page, www.nccusa.org for additional information and documentation.
NCC General Assembly Resolution "After September 11, 2001: Public Policy Considerations for the United States of America" Adopted Unanimously Nov. 16, 2002
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States brought far-reaching changes to our country and the world. Yet the basic principles on which we, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA(NCCCUSA), build our work for peace, justice, and security remain unchanged. In the 1999 Policy Statement, "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century," we affirmed:
"the Christian faith and community are rooted in theological understanding that is global by its very nature. The foundation for the church's involvement in the quest for world peace and justice can be found in the following Biblically based beliefs:
1) the transcending sovereignty and love of God for all creation and the expression of that love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, whose mission was to reveal understanding about that divine presence, to proclaim a message of salvation and to bring justice and peace;
2) the unity of creation and the equality of all races and peoples;
3) the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God; and
4) the church, the body of believers, whose global mission of witness, peacemaking and reconciliation testifies to God's action in history."
Reaffirming these beliefs more than a year after the tragedy of September 11, 2001 we offer the following reflections.
We celebrate and give thanks to God for the courage, selfless service, sacrifice, commitment, and generosity of our leaders, public service workers, and countless others who will never be known, who gave their lives, labor, resources, and compassion in response to this crisis. We express particular gratitude to President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and other national, state, and local leaders for their efforts to promote respect for religious diversity in this country and abroad, and especially the outreach to the Muslim community.
The Rise of Militarism and the Escalation of Violence
More than a year later, we are deeply concerned about the rise of militarism and the escalation of violence. In particular, we are deeply disturbed about the possibility of military action against Iraq. The United Nations Security Council Resolution on the Disarmament of Iraq, adopted on November 8, 2002, encourages us even as we remain concerned that the United States government maintains its threat to go to war with or without the Council's authorizations. We are also deeply disturbed by the United States' reluctance to use its influence in brokering a lasting peace in the Middle East, particularly in the continuing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The President and others in the US government rhetorically divide nations and peoples into camps of "good and evil.¡± Demonizing adversaries or enemies denies their basic humanity and contradicts Christians' beliefs in the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God. Moreover, such approaches to complex problems and difficult dilemmas risks breeding further insecurity, fear, hatred, violence among nations and peoples, conditions that could give rise to further acts of terrorism.
Human Rights Violations
In its pursuit of a "war on terrorism," principles of justice, fairness, and accountability have been sacrificed. The NCCCUSA is deeply concerned about extra-judicial proceedings, and impediments to fundamental civil liberties promulgated by law enforcement agencies of the government. Among its many actions that give rise to such concerns, the Justice Department has refused to release the names of detainees, has imposed secret immigration proceedings and lengthy detentions, and has given greater surveillance powers to intelligence agencies. Organizations that cherish civil rights have expressed deep concern that those arbitrarily detained and investigated are selected on the basis of racial profiling. As people are detained in secret, with no access to counsel or to trial and often no contact with their families, fundamental constitutional principles of habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, and due process have been undermined.
United States Power and Unilateralism
The United States dominates the world militarily and increasingly attempts to do so politically. The NCCCUSA is especially concerned that in its objectives, the US is increasingly militaristic and unilateral in pursuing political and economic goals. The NCCCUSA continues to be distressed over the refusal of the US fully to pay its arrears to the United Nations, its unwillingness to be a signatory party to the International Criminal Court, its reluctance to honor missile test ban treaties and other international agreements that would limit the growth of military arsenals, and its selective efforts to ensure implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. We are particularly distressed to hear of military responses to global political concerns. We call for more intensified efforts to use all possible diplomatic and other international channels to seek peace with justice.
Religion and Violence
Those killed on September 11, 2001 came from many different countries and faith communities. Yet those who attacked the United States on September 11 claimed to do so out of religious motivation. In the late 20th century and in the early 21st century, as in earlier eras, religion is used increasingly to legitimize violence, aggression, war, and terrorism. Now more than ever, the world needs for religious communities to work together for peace with justice. All religions provide a basis on which to build human communities where all can thrive, believers and non-believers alike.
Citizenship as Christians
As citizens and residents of the United States of America, we give thanks to God for the rich blessings of this good and bounteous land and for our noble heritage of democracy, religious tolerance and freedom, and human rights. We hope, dream and work for the day when everyone in our nation will share fully in this prosperity and freedom. Our love of and dedication to our country require that we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to the highest standards and ideals of a democratic society where the well-being of each person is the concern of all. As Christians, we put our security in the hands of Jesus Christ and the biblical witness that says, "perfect love casts out fear." I John 4:18a.
To these ends, we pray:
O Christ, our God, author of life and giver of peace, guide us so that we may walk in your ways of righteousness and arrive at the heaven of life and salvation in peace, through your mercy.
For you are our helper and our deliverer And to you is fitting glory, Dominion and honor, Now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
-- Collected from the Armenian Sunrise Office
In response to the new world circumstances created by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent "war on terrorism," in order to live out our faith commitment to peace and justice, we, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, gathered in Tampa, Florida, November 16, 2002, hereby resolve:
1) to commend President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell for working through the United Nations towards securing a Security Council resolution to require Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Security Council;
2) to urge President Bush and the Congress of the United States of America to do all possible, without going to war to ensure Iraqi compliance with the U.N. Resolution adopted November 8, 2002;
3) to urge President Bush and the Congress of the United States of America to insist on Israeli compliance with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions;
4) to urge President Bush and the Congress of the United States of America to pay its arrears to the UN and recommit the United States to international institutions like the United Nations and to the development of systems of common security for the world as a whole;
5) to urge the US government to play an active role in working toward a peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the context of the UN and in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions; and
6) that this statement be communicated to President George W. Bush and Members of Congress;
7) to urge our member communions and churches to work for peace and justice in our relations with Iraq and Israel and Palestine.
Recommendations to the NCC and Member Communions:
1) that the Heads of Communion within the NCCCUSA seek a meeting with the President and other appropriate leaders in his administration to communicate the concerns discussed in this statement;
2) that the member communions continue to help their congregations understand and express concerns for peace and justice worldwide in the wake of September 11, 2001, using this statement as a resource;
3) that the member communions continue to work together to help their congregations:
a. cope with the fear, anxiety, anger, and sense of vulnerability that these attacks provoke;
b. to help equip local congregations for public discussions and policy debates on appropriate responses to threats to national security; and
c. to help their congregations understand the repercussions these attacks have had in many countries around the world and the effects on the work of Church World Service, especially in south Asia;
4) that the member communions covenant with each other to advocate for United States public policies that increase genuine international cooperation, establish the foundations for appropriate systems of common security, and promote non-violent means of resolving conflicts, and justice for all people; in particular, member communions should urge the US government to abide by established principles of International law and human rights, especially with regard to immigration procedures and the rights of detainees;
5) that member communions participate fully in the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, 2001-2010, as a means of addressing these issues;
6) that the member communions invite people of other faith communities to work together to engage in such an advocacy; and
7) that the member communions invite their overseas partners to help interpret to US churches and citizens the consequences of the "war on terrorism" for people and countries around the world. NCC General Assembly Resolution Expressing Appreciation for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Statement on Iraq
Adopted Overwhelmingly November 16, 2002
Whereas many of the member communions of the National Council of Churches and many state, regional, and local ecumenical bodies earlier this year issued statements expressing concern about proposed unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq;
Whereas the Executive Board of the National Council of Churches in October urged the Bush Administration to step back from the brink of war and to pursue a path of consultation and collaboration with other nations and the NCC General Assembly today has adopted a resolution urging President Bush and the Congress of the United States to do all possible, without going to war, to ensure Iraqi compliance with the U.N. Resolution adopted November 8, 2002;
Whereas the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops this week issued a statement on Iraq that responds to developments that have taken place since the National Council's October message to President Bush;
Therefore, we the members of the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches express our appreciation for the statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and we affirm its warning against a rush to war with Iraq. We would particularly highlight the following sections from the Bishops' statement:
"Iraqi leadership must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its neighbors, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and destroy all such existing weapons. . . . We join others in urging Iraq to comply fully with this latest Security Council resolution.
"We recognize that not taking military action could have its own negative consequences. We are concerned, however, that war against Iraq could have unpredictable consequences not only for Iraq, but for peace and stability elsewhere in the Middle East. The use of force might provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent, could impose terrible new burdens on an already long-suffering civilian population, and could lead to wider conflict and instability in the region. War against Iraq could also detract from the responsibility to help build a just and stable order in Afghanistan and could undermine broader efforts to stop terrorism."
Furthermore we express our intention to work together with all peace-loving people of faith, to witness to our statements by appropriate action including dialogue with our congregations, with our public officials, visits to the people of Iraq, and consultation with Christian churches throughout the world, and to pray that the Lord will grant wisdom to our leaders as they face awesome responsibilities of life and death.
By Roy Li