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Out of the Ashes and Tragedy of September 11, 2001

A Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Adopted Unanimously by the NCC General Assembly November 15, 2001

In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, continue to hold in prayer the families of all the victims, as well as all those survivors who now suffer physical and emotional pain. We claim God's promise that all who mourn will not feel separated from God's love, but will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

In the shadow of the events of recent weeks, we give thanks that the magnitude of the loss of life and human suffering—as profound as that loss has been—has been matched by the generosity of spirit and the humanitarian response.

We believe that the tragedy of the September 11th attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism, which now includes ground forces as well as military strikes in Afghanistan, provide a "kairos moment," a place within God's time—a time for the Church to bear witness to the fullness of God, our creator, redeemer and comforter.

We lament the loss of life in any nation because every person is precious and unique in God's sight. As violence escalates, the pre-existing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan reaches horrendous proportions. Afghanistan's neighbors are pressed to provide sanctuary and hospitality to a massive influx of refugees, most of whom are children, women, and the elderly.

In the U.S., some people of Middle Eastern and Central and Southern Asian background, regardless of religion or creed, including Christians, have been threatened, attacked, and killed, and some of their places of worship defaced as a result of bigotry and hatred. At the same time, individuals and communities across the nation have rallied in support of those unjustly targeted. We commit ourselves to continue to dialogue and to build community.

In the U.S., some people have been or currently are being held in detention centers presumably because of possible linkages to terrorist activities. We believe that the rule of law must be administered fairly, so as to safeguard and protect civil liberties, even in a time of external threat.

It is time for us as an ecumenical community to make a renewed commitment to a ministry of peace with justice, and to make real in these days the call of Jesus, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) In his Beatitudes, Jesus calls us, his followers, to be merciful if we are to receive mercy; he reminds us that the peacemakers are blessed and will be called children of God. And, he proclaims us "the light of the world"; our good works should be a beacon to others so they may give glory to God. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We lift up "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century," a 1999 Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. We reaffirm and highlight the Statement's call to build a culture of peace with justice characterized by these convictions:

  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."

    (The Preamble)

We sense a deepening realization that international cooperation is essential to root out the networks of terrorism. There is a growing recognition of how the security of our world is interdependent and that the causes of insecurity are interrelated. There is increasing awareness among the peoples of the world that the reasons for this escalation of violence must be better understood and addressed collectively. Several heads of state have cited a complex set of multiple factors at the current session of the UN General Assembly. For instance, President George W. Bush, in his address on November 10, spoke of the urgent need to implement the relevant UN resolutions that provide the foundation for a lasting peace and security between Israel and Palestine.

We believe that no nation can feel secure by itself if others are insecure. Similarly, military security does not ensure economic security. Nor can there be true security without adequate food, water, health care, sanitation, or shelter. The challenge for those who seek justice and peace is to reinforce the intimate connections between economic, political, cultural and physical security. Such a challenge is pertinent to the current situation in Afghanistan and should be taken up by the United Nations in its effort to broker a post-war Afghanistan government with the active participation of Russia and the United States and the countries surrounding Afghanistan: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

We express our deep appreciation to the member communions of the NCCCUSA and other contributors who enable their agencies, including CWS and local congregations, to undertake long-term spiritual and emotional care in New York City and elsewhere in the United States. We are equally grateful for their generosity that is enabling CWS to provide assistance to Afghan refugees and displaced persons. CWS has a decade of humanitarian experience in partnership in Afghanistan and an almost 50-year history in Pakistan, carried out by staff, partners, and volunteers. We applaud the dedication, competence, and courage of these, our brothers and sisters, and we pray for their safety, strength, and health as they continue their service and ministry under extremely difficult circumstances. CWS response is ongoing and its implementation is interfaith based.

Therefore the General Assembly of the NCCCUSA, meeting in Oakland, California:

Urges the US government and other governments to ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to treat all peoples with dignity, respect, and tolerance irrespective of religion, race, ethnicity or color;

Calls for an early end to the bombing campaign and for all parties to collaborate with the international community to discern non-violent means that may be available by which to bring to justice those who terrorize the nations of the world.

Urges the United States to play a constructive role within the framework of the UN in establishing institutions of a post-war Afghan government that are broadly based, respectful of their traditions and acceptable to the people of Afghanistan.

Urges the United States to make a long-term commitment to the region with a view to promoting harmonious relationships, economic development and lasting peace.

Encourages the member communions and their congregations to undertake open dialogue on questions of peace and justice seeking to build stronger multi-faith communities of tolerance and mutual understanding; and to renew our commitment of the churches in the ministry of peace with justice.

In addition, the General Assembly:

Appeals to the member communions and the general public to respond generously to the CWS Afghanistan/Pakistan Appeal for $6.28 million designated for food and shelter for the refugees, recognizing CWS as an agency that has been active in Central and Southern Asia for decades. Church World Service is well positioned to contribute to the urgent tasks of food relief, assistance to refugees and displaced persons, and long-term food security and sustainable development in Afghanistan.

Commends the CWS staff, partners, and volunteers who are at risk in Pakistan and Afghanistan for their dedication, compassion, and expertise;

Expresses its deep appreciation for the cooperation of all the relevant U.S. government agencies, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Policy Base: Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century, 1999