On June 28, the day the new interim government in Iraq officially began operating, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries issued a statement of hope and caution that encouraged Christians in all nations to take part in building the war-torn nation.
“We invite men and women of all nations and religions to work together in the reconstruction of Iraq, and to join hands in building an unbreakable global network of peace and justice,” the statement, written by Bishop Joel Martinez, president of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and the Rev. R. Randy Day, the board’s chief executive, read.
The two representatives of the United Methodist Church (UMC)’s mission board expressed their hopes to participate in relief efforts.
“Our perspectives on Iraq are based in our Christian mission commitments to alleviate human suffering and promote freedom, justice and peace,” they wrote. “We await greater opportunities to engage in social and economic rehabilitation in Iraq.”
However, they also listed several concerns about the “short and long term results of the transfer,” including the increased international action, relief and rehabilitation efforts, military personnel and security transfers and the continued use of military power.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the UMC’s Board of Church and Society, the Rev. James Winkler, articulated specific worries about the military personnel that will be remaining in the volatile nation even after the transfer of power.
“The transfer of power to the people of Iraq is definitely a step forward toward seeing peace and security for the people of Iraq,” Winkler said to UMC’s news service.
However, said Winkler, “the United States is in the process of building as many as 14 permanent military bases in Iraq, which leads me to also question whether the Iraqi people will have true control while the United States maintains many thousands of soldiers and military personnel in their country.”
He also questioned the legitimacy of the power transfer and the newly elected leader.
Said Winkler: “The new Prime Minister (Iyad) Allawi and his organization have long been on the payroll of the CIA and I have concerns about how authentic sovereignty will be for a government lead by a prime minister who has been receiving CIA funds for so many years.”
The following is the full statement of the Board of Global Ministries as released on June 29:
Statement on the Transfer of Power in Iraq
June 28, 2004
Bishop Joel N. Martinez, President
The Rev. R. Randy Day, General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church
We are prayerfully concerned about the short- and long-term results of the transfer of Iraq’s sovereignty by the United States and its military allies, with power handed over to an Iraqi administration today, June 28, 2004. Our perspectives on Iraq are based in our Christian mission commitments to alleviate human suffering and promote freedom, justice and peace. Four overlapping issues command our attention with regard to Iraq at this time:
· International Action. We are pleased that the United Nations is taking a major role in the transition. We see international collaboration as the only means of achieving security in the future. As recently as May 8, the United Methodist Council of Bishops called for U.N. participation in the rebuilding of Iraq. We pray that the U.S.-led military coalition will allow the U.N. to do its work without interference. We affirm the U.N. Security Council’s call for the “rights of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and to exercise full authority and control over their financial and natural resources.”
· Relief and Rehabilitation. We await greater opportunities to engage in social and economic rehabilitation in Iraq, but we are concerned for the immediate and long-range future of relief programs, especially for existing services to children in this violent and violated country. Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), we are working with partner humanitarian organizations to provide for the needs of children. Some of those groups hope to remain in Iraq after the political change, but others, anticipating intensified violence, may withdraw. We are committed to assist with refugee and relief programs as long as viable systems of service delivery are available.
· Military Personnel and Security. We dare to dream of peace in Iraq, but we are concerned about the continuing impact of the war and post-war policies on peace-keeping military personnel and their families. We pray that a multinational security force, working with the Iraqi police and military, can bring about peace and calm. We reissue our bishops’ call for prayers for all “military personnel and their families who have sacrificed as a result of this war,” and pray that there will be no more killing and wounding of military personnel or civilians inside Iraq. We are concerned about the impact on families and children of second Iraq tours of duty by personnel of the coalition forces.
· Use of Military Power. As we pray for justice in Iraq, we continue to be distressed by the assumptions about military rights and might evidenced by the U.S.-led coalition in its intervention in Iraq, despite the horrifying human rights record of the Hussein regime. Our discomfort with the Preemptive Doctrine of the United States is intensified by 1) the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. personnel; 2) the assertion by the bipartisan Commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that no “operational relationship” existed between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden; and 3) the lack of evidence of weapons of massive destruction, which threat was put forth by the U.S. and Britain as the primary reason for their military action.
As United Methodists, “we deplore war” and work for the peaceful settlement of disputes (2000 Book of Discipline, Par 164G). We affirm the right and duty of people of all nations to determine their own destiny (2000 Book of Discipline, Par 165B). We acknowledge our Christian responsibility to provide relief and rehabilitation for victims of war and ministries of reconciliation for combatants. We affirm the need for sensitive and caring ministries to military personnel and their families.
We invite men and women of all nations and religions to work together in the reconstruction of Iraq, and to join hands in building an unbreakable global network of peace and justice.