MEDAN, Indonesia/GENEVA - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches in Asia have urged the LWF and its member churches to use all avenues and methods to avert a war in Iraq "for the sake of justice and global peace."
In a statement issued at the end of the March 2-6 Asia Church Leadership Conference (ACLC) jointly held with the Asian Pre-assembly Consultation (PAC), representatives of the LWF member churches in the region said they were "deeply concerned about the possible war against Iraq." They condemned any military strike or aggression against the country, stressing that its future and the region's stability was at stake in the event of a United States-led war.
"We reject the use of war and violence as a political tool and affirm the essential role of the United Nations in the process of solving problems and restoring peace. Any military action [against Iraq] outside the established UN framework will further weaken global peace and encourage the law of the jungle," said the delegates drawn from 15 countries.
War can never be seen as an instrument of peace, the LWF delegates from Asia stressed, and affirmed their stance "against violence and against countries who seek to use their power over the small, powerless and vulnerable countries." Pleading for dialogue instead of a military option, the church representatives from Asia condemned all forms of terrorism including extremists who seek to provoke "a clash of civilizations," and noted that violence only "begets more violence."
They pointed out that the humanitarian consequences of war - the killing and maiming of innocent people, food shortages and the related consequences, will only lead to more deaths in Iraq and other parts of the world. "The manufacturing of millions of refugees," the Asia church leaders said, stands in direct contradiction of the image of God in all people.
The Asian PAC/ACLC participants criticized some world leaders who have repeatedly set up frameworks whereby the rest of the world is either for or against them, "thereby appropriating for themselves a certain world order, legitimized only by themselves and their allies." They condemned a "just war theory" as a means to destroy weapons of mass destruction and wipe out international terrorism, saying such an approach will sap the world, particularly the poor countries, of much needed resources.
The representatives of LWF member churches in Asia said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a serious case of concern for the Lutheran communion in the region. They cited the killing of innocent people and atrocities committed by the Israeli military against the Palestinian community, and called for the implementation of a just peace as prescribed in the UN resolutions 242, 342 and 1397. They called for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories; a two-state solution respecting that Palestinians and Israelis live side by side peacefully, "with justice, equality and reconciliation"; the sharing of Jerusalem between both peoples with respect accorded to the three monotheistic religions - Christianity, Islam and Judaism; just resolution of the plight of refugees and a solution to the illegal settlements on Arab land.
They encouraged the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (ELCJ) - serving in Israel, Jordan and Palestine - to work with other churches in the search for justice and reconciliation. The 3,000-member ELCJ, was represented at the regional meeting by Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan. It joined the LWF in 1974.
The Asian PAC and Church Leadership Conference brought together some 120 representatives of the 46 LWF member churches in the region. Gathered around the LWF Tenth Assembly theme, "For the Healing of the World," they shared in Bible study presentations, group discussions, sub-regional meetings, worship and the fellowship of the host Indonesian churches. It was the third such consultation in preparation for the July 2003 LWF Tenth Assembly that will take place in Winnipeg, Canada. A pre-Assembly Consultation for North America took place January 23-26 in Denver, Colorado in the USA, while Europe's was held February 23-26 in Vienna, Austria. Representatives from the Africa region will meet March 23-26 in Nairobi, Kenya, while the Latin America and Caribbean consultation will be held April 7-10 in San Salvador, El Salvador. An international Women's Pre-Assembly Gathering took place 14-17 November 2002 in Montreux, Switzerland, and a global youth conference will be held prior to the Assembly.
By Albert H. Lee