WCC Executive Committee states "Stop threats of war on Iraq!"

Feb 22, 2003 03:07 PM EST

The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, 18-21 February, "strongly deplores the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy" in a statement against military action in Iraq. Expressing deep concern for the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and the need for all political leaders to pursue paths for sustainable peace in the region, the Executive Committee calls on churches to join in a day of prayer for peace in Iraq at the beginning of Lent.

The statement emphasizes that "war against Iraq would be immoral, unwise, and in breach of the principles of the United Nations Charter" and expresses deep concern that the United States and some western governments continue to call for military action. Expressing equal concern about Iraqi violations of human rights, the statement also calls on Iraq to comply with international standards of human rights and United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions. It recognizes the need to disarm Iraq, but "also make the whole Middle East region free from weapons of mass destruction".

Warning of "a humanitarian crisis of grave magnitude" and the risk of further destabilizing the region should "pre-emptive" military action be taken against Iraq, the Executive Committee appeals to the UN Security Council to uphold the principles of the UN Charter which "strictly limit the legitimate use of military force and to refrain from creating negative precedents and lowering the threshold for using violent means to solve international conflicts."

It calls on the UN Security Council to "adequately reinforce and allow reasonable time for weapons inspections to fulfill their mandate". Earlier in the statement, the Executive Committee emphasized the need to pursue long-term, durable solutions to the conflict, saying "20 years of inspections are more effective, less costly and more relevant than 20 days of war."

The statement calls on churches "to intensify" their efforts for peace and in particular, affirms "the courageous stance" of church leaders, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom, "in direct opposition to the positions taken by their political leadership."

The Executive Committee also highlighted current peace processes in Cyprus and Sri Lanka. A Minute on Cyprus welcomed recent efforts of the UN Secretary General to present a plan as a basis for negotiations to bring a "peaceful and just settlement" to the Cyprus Problem. It also welcomed the decision of the leaders of the European Union to accept Cyprus as a full member of the Union by 2004. The committee reiterated WCC's concern that the continuing situation "violates the sovereignty and unity of Cyprus, the fundamental human rights of its people, and poses threats to their security and to the peace and stability in the wider region." Noting encouraging developments on the political and civil society levels in the country, the Committee expressed its prayer that "the day, when all communities in Cyprus will trust one another again and live together in harmony and peace, is now near."

The Executive Committee expressed its recognition and appreciation of developments in the peace negotiations between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), particularly the role of the Norwegian government in accompanying the process, and the role of the churches in the country in their "inter-religious cooperative endeavours to mobilise people for peace and national reconciliation." However, the Committee called on the international community to "help sustain the peace process" by providing "much needed aid and assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation."