War and Peace in a Time of Terrorism and Fear

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, 5/4/2004

April 20, 2004
War and Peace in a Time of Terrorism and Fear
A Position Paper of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is watching with growing sadness the devolution of the crisis in Iraq into an increasingly chaotic quagmire. With more than 100 United States soldiers killed in the last 3 weeks; with mounting insurgencies throughout Iraq; with no certainty as to Iraqi leadership after the transition of power on June 30; with little and only begrudging change in posture vis—vis the international community: the NCCCUSA is raising its voice to demand a change of course for U.S. action in Iraq.

In his speech and press conference before the American people on April 13, 2004, President George W. Bush stated that the war in Iraq was but only one theater in the declared war on terror. It is a fact that this "war on terror" is the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy. This then begs the question as to whether or not the goal of this policy - eradicating terrorism as an imminent and effective threat against people of goodwill throughout the world - is well served by actions such as the war in Iraq.

To achieve this goal of eradicating terrorism, the U.S. requires the cooperation of most, if not all, countries in the world. Actions taken by the Administration since 9/11 - not just the unilateral, preemptive military action in Iraq, but also the deprival of due process for more than 600 people imprisoned at Guantanamo, the silencing of political opponents, the casting of suspicion over Arab and Muslim communities in the U.S. - have not fostered such cooperation. Instead, they have resulted in the squandering of the universal goodwill enjoyed by the U.S. in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and indeed have alienated many around the world who once saw American democracy as something to be emulated.

The common cause that all countries should share in the "war against terror" is overtaken by a resentment against the U.S. for what is seen as a betrayal of its own ideals. What, then, can be done to restore our relationship with these countries? What can be done to recover the goodwill lost since 9/11 and to motivate all people of goodwill against terrorism? There is much to do, and we must begin in Iraq.

A Needed Change of Course

The NCCCUSA sees a critical need for the U.S. to change course in Iraq. A commitment to stay the present course, with the likely addition of more troops, and without an exit strategy, is a formula for further disaster. Instead, the U.S. Government should alter its existing plans to include the following steps: a.. A cessation of all offensive military actions.

a.. An immediate appeal to the United Nations to assume responsibility for the transition to Iraqi authority. This should be accompanied by full U.S. support for the U.N. to carry out this mandate, as well as full U.S. support through funding and military assistance during the transition. Thi responsibility should be assumed as of the June 30 target date for the end of U.S. control.

a.. A conference of all relevant parties in Iraq convened by the U.N. to determine the people, plans and processes to move from U.N. authority to Iraqi self-rule. This should be accompanied by an international conference to ensure broad multi-lateral support for Iraq during the transition period.

a.. A continuation of humanitarian, economic and security assistance throughout the transition period.

Actions by Churches to Support this Change of Course

The NCCCUSA is composed of 36 national communions from the Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. Together these communions have a constituency of 50 million persons in 140,000 congregations across the country. These Churches pledge to support a change of course in American policy through the following actions:

a.. By mid-May, through the leadership of the NCCCUSA, the Churches will seek to speak to our own government on the need to change course. This will primarily take the form of a request for a meeting with President Bush. The request will be made public.

a.. Also by mid-May, through a joint pastoral letter signed by the NCCCUSA's Heads of Communion, we will seek to educate our communities' respective constituents on the relevant issues and encourage them to likewise urge our government to change course.

a.. Also by mid-May, leaders of the NCCCUSA's communions will ask local and national media organizations to report on the war in a fair and balanced manner (for example, in addition to reporting on the Americans killed in Iraq, to report on the number of Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. forces).

a.. The NCCCUSA will seek a meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan, to ideally take place in mid-May, to urge that the U.N. assume responsibility for the transition to Iraqi authority. In addition to U.S. religiou leadership, we will seek to include senior religious leaders from the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and variou national councils of churches.

a.. On Thursday, May 27, the NCCCUSA will host a Memorial Day inter-faith service in Washington to commemorate the Americans killed during the war in Iraq, as well as the Iraqi civilians killed in the conflict. (As a visual symbol of our concern for the mounting violence in Iraq, we could place one bouquet of flowers for each American killed; these bouquets could then be delivered to Walter Reed Hospital after the service for distribution among the wounded soldiers being treated there. For the Iraqis, perhaps strewn flower petals could symbolize the thousands killed and wounded.) Similar events will be encouraged in cities throughout the country, with resource (such as bulletin inserts) to be provided by the NCCCUSA.

a.. The NCCCUSA will ask the WCC to host a meeting of European Christian leaders in Geneva on June 24-25 to discuss mutual concerns and raise the voice of the international Christian community on this issue. This would immediately follow an Istanbul summit planning meeting, to be held in Pari on June 22-23, which might also be an occasion for a statement on the issue.

a.. The NCCCUSA co-sponsored international inter-faith summit, to be held in Istanbul on October 11-13, will raise the concerns of the international inter-faith community in the context of other, related issues to be discussed. This event will give participants a 3-month perspective on the progress of the transition.

These actions, considered separately, each speak to a specific issue attendant to the situation in Iraq. When taken together, these actions will build momentum in a general movement to help guide public opinion with regard to the need for U.S. to change course in Iraq.


Especially in a world filled with conflict, our faith calls us to fellowship and community with all people and nations. But the path to such community is not an easy one. It requires much dialogue, respect for others, and the courage to listen, learn and overcome prejudice. Such community also requires shared commitments, and agreed-upon rules of legitimate behavior, as expressed in international law and practiced within institutions such a the United Nations.

The war in Iraq began on the premise that the United States was mighty enough not to need the help our counsel of the world, and could thus "go it alone." Developments in Iraq have shown that this policy is dangerous for the world, and for the U.S. Our faith tells us that this policy is wrong. It is time for our country to return to the community of nations.

To repeat a statement of the NCCCUSA made more than forty years ago: "Christian faith requires us to take initiatives for peace, and against such ancient enemies of man as: human want, denial of individual freedoms, war-breeding international tensions. We believe in the sovereignty of God' love in the life of mankind. We respect the dignity and worth of the individual. Both as Christians and as citizens of a democracy, our duty i to find and support practical programs of action toward peace and justice."

In fulfillment of this duty, the NCCCUSA was on the forefront of opposition to the invasion of Iraq. The NCCCUSA now feels the obligation to be on the forefront of a movement that seeks a responsible end to this conflict.