NCC 2002 General Assembly: Resolution "After September 11, 2001: Public Policy Considerations for the United States of America"
Adopted Unanimously November 16, 2002
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States brought far-reaching changes to our country and the world. Yet the basic principles on which we, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA), build our work for peace, justice, and security remain unchanged. In the 1999 Policy Statement, "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century," we affirmed:
"the Christian faith and community are rooted in theological understanding that is global by its very nature. The foundation for the church's involvement in the quest for world peace and justice can be found in the following biblically based beliefs: 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."
Reaffirming these beliefs more than a year after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, we offer the following reflections.
We celebrate and give thanks to God for the courage, selfless service, sacrifice, commitment, and generosity of our leaders, public service workers, and countless others who will never be known, who gave their lives, labor, resources, and compassion in response to this crisis. We express particular gratitude to President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and other national, state, and local leaders for their efforts to promote respect for religious diversity in this country and abroad, and especially the outreach to the Muslim community.
The Rise of Militarism and the Escalation of Violence
More than a year later, we are deeply concerned about the rise of militarism and the escalation of violence. In particular, we are deeply disturbed about the possibility of military action against Iraq. The United Nations Security Council Resolution on the Disarmament of Iraq, adopted on November 8, 2002, encourages us even as we remain concerned that the United States government maintains its threat to go to war with or without the Council's authorizations. We are also deeply disturbed by the United States' reluctance to use its influence in brokering a lasting peace in the Middle East, particularly in the continuing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The President and others in the US government rhetorically divide nations and peoples into camps of "good and evil." Demonizing adversaries or enemies denies their basic humanity and contradicts Christians' beliefs in the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God. Moreover, such approaches to complex problems and difficult dilemmas risk breeding further insecurity, fear, hatred, and violence among nations and peoples, conditions that could give rise to further acts of terrorism.
Human Rights Violations
In its pursuit of a "war on terrorism," principles of justice, fairness, and accountability have been sacrificed. The NCCCUSA is deeply concerned about extra-judicial proceedings, and impediments to fundamental civil liberties promulgated by law enforcement agencies of the government. Among its many actions that give rise to such concerns, the Justice Department has refused to release the names of detainees, has imposed secret immigration proceedings and lengthy detentions, and has given greater surveillance powers to intelligence agencies. Organizations that cherish civil rights have expressed deep concern that those arbitrarily detained and investigated are selected on the basis of racial profiling. As people are detained in secret, with no access to counsel or to trial and often no contact with their families, fundamental constitutional principles of habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, and due process have been undermined.
United States Power and Unilateralism
The United States dominates the world militarily and increasingly attempts to do so politically. The NCCCUSA is especially concerned that in its objectives, the US is increasingly militaristic and unilateral in pursuing political and economic goals. The NCCCUSA continues to be distressed over the refusal of the US fully to pay its arrears to the United Nations, its unwillingness to be a signatory party to the International Criminal Court, its reluctance to honor missile test ban treaties and other international agreements that would limit the growth of military arsenals, and its selective efforts to ensure implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. We are particularly distressed to hear of military responses to global political concerns. We call for more intensified efforts to use all possible diplomatic and other international channels to seek peace with justice.
Religion and Violence
Those killed on September 11, 2001 came from many different countries and faith communities. Yet those who attacked the United States on September 11 claimed to do so out of religious motivation. In the late 20th century and in the early 21st century, as in earlier eras, religion is used increasingly to legitimize violence, aggression, war, and terrorism. Now more than ever, the world needs for religious communities to work together for peace with justice. All religions provide a basis on which to build human communities where all can thrive, believers and non-believers alike.
Citizenship as Christians
As citizens and residents of the United States of America, we give thanks to God for the rich blessings of this good and bounteous land and for our noble heritage of democracy, religious tolerance and freedom, and human rights. We hope, dream and work for the day when everyone in our nation will share fully in this prosperity and freedom. Our love of and dedication to our country require that we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to the highest standards and ideals of a democratic society where the well-being of each person is the concern of all. As Christians, we put our security in the hands of Jesus Christ and the biblical witness that says, "perfect love casts out fear." I John 4:18a
To these ends, we pray:
O Christ, our God,
author of life and giver of peace,
so that we may walk in your ways of righteousness
and arrive at the heaven of life and salvation in peace,
through your mercy.
For you are our helper and our deliverer
And to you is fitting glory,
Dominion and honor,
Now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
-- Collect from the Armenian Sunrise Office
In response to the new world circumstances created by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent "war on terrorism," in order to live out our faith commitment to peace and justice, we, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, gathered in Tampa, Florida, November 16, 2002, hereby resolve:
- to commend President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell for working through the United Nations towards securing a Security Council resolution to require Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Security Council;
- to urge President Bush and the Congress of the United States of America to do all possible, without going to war, to ensure Iraqi compliance with the U.N. Resolution adopted November 8, 2002;
- to urge President Bush and the Congress of the United States of America to insist on Israeli compliance with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions;
- to urge President Bush and the Congress of the United States of America to pay its arrears to the UN and recommit the United States to international institutions such as the United Nations and to the development of systems of common security for the world as a whole;
- to urge the US government to play an active role in working toward a peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the context of the UN and in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions;
- that this statement be communicated to President George W. Bush and Members of Congress; and
- to urge our member communions and churches to work for peace and justice in our relations with Iraq and Israel and Palestine.
Recommendations to the NCC and Member Communions:
- that the Heads of Communion within the NCCCUSA seek a meeting with the President and other appropriate leaders in his administration to communicate the concerns discussed in this statement;
- that the member communions continue to help their congregations understand and express concerns for peace and justice worldwide in the wake of September 11, 2001, using this statement as a resource;
- that the member communions continue to work together to help their congregations to:
a) cope with the fear, anxiety, anger, and sense of vulnerability that these attacks provoke;
b) be equipped for public discussions and policy debates on appropriate responses to threats to national security; and
c) understand the repercussions these attacks have had in many countries around the world and the effects on the work of Church World Service, especially in south Asia;
- that the member communions covenant with each other to advocate for United States public policies that increase genuine international cooperation, establish the foundations for appropriate systems of common security, and promote non-violent means of resolving conflicts, and justice for all people; in particular, member communions should urge the US government to abide by established principles of international law and human rights, especially with regard to immigration procedures and the rights of detainees;
- that member communions participate fully in the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, 2001-2010, as a means of addressing these issues;
- that the member communions invite people of other faith communities to work together to engage in such advocacy; and
- that the member communions invite their overseas partners to help interpret to US churches and citizens the consequences of the "war on terrorism" for people and countries around the world.
Immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001, religious leaders from diverse traditions, people of good will everywhere, and governments all over the world condemned these atrocities and expressed a deep sense of shock, outrage, and grief. In a variety of ways, they also offered concrete assistance to the victims and their families. Rarely have people and institutions across the globe been so united. We continue to be deeply grateful for these expressions of universal human compassion. In particular, we thank the World Council of Churches, its member churches, and regional and national ecumenical organizations for their pastoral visits and messages of solidarity and sympathy.
In the US we also witnessed large numbers of people coming together in remarkable ways to grieve, to work for recovery, to hold fast to that which is dear in our personal and corporate lives, and to pray together despite our religious differences. We celebrate and give thanks to God for the courage, selfless service, sacrifice, commitment, and generosity of our leaders, public service workers, and countless others who will never be known, who gave their lives, labor, resources, and compassion in response to this crisis. We pray for the strength to hold firm to such unity expressed by so many, borne out of tragedy, but sustained by loving kindness.
We express particular gratitude to President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and other national, state, and local leaders for their efforts immediately after the assault to focus attention on the vast Muslim majority's devotion to peace and good relations among people. Such actions by our leaders foster inter-religious understanding and promote respect for religious diversity in this country and abroad. We also welcomed these leaders' steadfast comfort and care for us all in a time of trial. We pray that the President and leaders of all nations will be guided by wisdom, justice and love.
In the midst of the almost universal outpouring of sympathy and kindness toward our country in the wake of September 11, we had hoped that the US would grasp an opportunity for leadership. The rare and remarkable global gift of unity in compassion might have served as a basis for promoting new, non-violent, and just approaches to addressing deeply rooted conflicts across the world and new systems of common security within the US and internationally. We are deeply disturbed by US efforts to do the opposite, seeking security through military might and threat of war.
More than a year later, as we remember those who died on September 11 and those who continue to mourn their deaths, we also remember those who have died in escalating conflicts across the world. As we in the United States continue to experience a national sense of vulnerability to violence and terror, we also recall that in many places, people have long lived with terrorism, violence, and death on a scale as great or greater than that of September 11. We condemn any act of indiscriminate violence against noncombatants. Such acts represent an absence of respect for basic principles of morality that no authentic religious doctrine can support and no genuine political cause can justify. We reaffirm our conviction that the international community, and especially the government of the USA, bears heavy responsibility for bringing the parties to the conflict in Israel and Palestine into compliance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, the basis of a lasting peace. In the present context of escalating violence, it is urgent that international laws be respected, more particularly the universally accepted norms providing the standards for the treatment of civilians during armed conflicts and under occupation.
The Rise of Militarism and the Escalation of Violence
The horrific acts of violence of September 11, 2001 evoke in us as the people of the United States a strong temptation to seek security through acts of revenge and warfare. The US government has responded predominately through military means, a course of action that seems to have encouraged an escalation of violence in many parts of the world. In the war in Afghanistan, many non-combatants have been unintentionally killed in US military bombing campaigns. Despite such horrors, the war may have brought with it fragile new possibilities for democracy and dramatic decrease in civil strife in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan, like many other countries, suffers greater authoritarianism and internal violence. Soon after September 11, 2001, the US government issued ultimatums to other nations to join its "war on terror." A number of repressive regimes, with the support of the US administration, have seized this opportunity as license to respond to unrest, civil conflicts, and dissidents within their own societies with increasingly violent repression. Some dissident groups have reacted with armed resistance, resulting in more death and destruction. Nowhere have such tragic cycles of violence been more evident than in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
In waging the "war on terror," the United States now has armed forces stationed in more than 100 countries, an unprecedented global military presence for any superpower at any time in history. To support such mobilization, military spending in the US and elsewhere has increased dramatically at the expense of addressing other pressing human needs. The Bush administration has rapidly escalated the development of weapons systems that have little, if anything, to do with addressing the causes or manifestations of terrorism, including a renewed emphasis on extending the US military reach to outer space.
Furthermore, the President and others in the US government rhetorically divide nations and peoples into camps of "good and evil." Demonizing adversaries or enemies denies their basic humanity and contradicts Christians' beliefs in the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God. Moreover, such approaches to complex problems and difficult dilemmas risk breeding further insecurity, fear, hatred, and violence among nations and peoples, conditions that could give rise to further acts of terrorism.
The efforts of the US administration, with the consent of Congress, to organize international support for a new military action against Iraq, with the objective of overthrowing its current government, raise particular alarm. While Iraq's possible acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and its brutal suppression of dissidents within its borders also concern us deeply, we believe mechanisms other than war exist to address such matters with the government of Iraq and others across the world that exhibit similarly disturbing behavior. In addition, we are deeply disturbed by the United States' reluctance to use its diplomatic influence to broker a lasting peace across the entire region of the Middle East, but particularly in the continuing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
In the face of rising militarism and escalating violence, we restate our firm conviction, as expressed in the fifth "Pillar of Peace," that,
Peace rooted in justice requires the nurturing of a culture of peace in homes, communities, religious institutions, nations and across the world; the use of non-violent means of resolving conflict; appropriate systems of common security; and the end of the unrestrained production, sale and use of weapons worldwide.
Human Rights Violations
In responding to internal and external threats to peace, governments have an obligation to protect people from violence and to provide security for all who live within their borders. In upholding the constitutional basis of a free society, democratic governments have an obligation to preserve and defend human rights. Tension sometimes exists between these two basic duties, and, since September 11, 2001, conflicts have grown over the appropriate balance between them.
We are grateful for our government's successful efforts to enhance our security through improved policing, intelligence gathering, and interdiction of those who seek to commit further acts of terror. In its efforts to apprehend all those responsible for the September 11 attacks, however, the administration has increased the scope of executive authority dramatically. The normal checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches have given way to a remarkable degree of deference on the part of Congress and the courts. We worry that short-term measures, possibly required in extraordinary circumstances such as a military attack on the country, will become fixed as "routine" in the long-term. Such developments upset the equilibrium between provisions for security and human rights, especially in relation to civil liberties, which have been more firmly grounded in democratic norms and practices.
Among its many actions that give rise to such concerns, the Justice Department has refused to release the names of detainees, has imposed secret immigration proceedings and lengthy detentions, and has given greater surveillance powers to intelligence agencies. Organizations that cherish civil rights have expressed deep concern that those arbitrarily detained and investigated are selected on the basis of racial profiling. As people are held in secret detention, with no access to counsel or to trial and often no contact with their families, fundamental constitutional principles of habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, and due process have been undermined.
The US government categorizes those captured in the war in Afghanistan and detained on Guantanamo as unprivileged combatants rather than prisoners of war. In such cases, the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war require a special tribunal to be set up to judge the merits of the case. This has not happened. Furthermore, the US government has denied access by independent human rights groups to monitor the circumstances of the detainees and refused to publish the reports of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was allowed access. This policy, a grave breach of international humanitarian and human rights law, must be reversed.
Encouraged by the United States government, other regimes-democratic and authoritarian alike-also make use of the global "war on terror" to set aside constitutional protections for civil and political rights. Often those most affected by new emergency measures justified in the name of protecting state security are religious, racial and/or ethnic minorities, political dissidents, refugees and prospective immigrants.
Beyond these issues of civil and political liberties, increasing military spending at the expense of meeting human needs jeopardizes the possibilities that the United States might more adequately address economic, social and cultural rights at home and abroad. Poverty, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, and poor access to clean water wound and kill more slowly than do guns and bombs, but they, too, destroy the prospects of genuine human security in our nation and in the world. Furthermore, the combination of economic deprivation and political authoritarianism in many parts of the world have often created conditions that give rise to groups that use armed resistance, perpetuating cycles of violence and even the use of terrorism by governments and guerillas alike.
In the face of violations of basic principles of human rights and increasing threats to the economic well-being of people in the US and abroad, we restate our firm conviction, as expressed in the second, fourth, and sixth "Pillars of Peace," that,
o Peace rooted in justice requires increased moral, ethical and legal accountability at all levels from governments, financial institutions, multilateral organizations, transnational corporations and all other economic actors to seek a just, participatory and sustainable economic order for the welfare and well-being of all people and all creation.
o Peace rooted in justice requires the participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups, seeking to promote justice and peace, in those mechanisms capable of redressing the causes and consequences of injustice and oppression.
o Peace rooted in justice requires respect for the inherent dignity of all persons and the recognition, protection and implementation of the principles of the International Bill of Human Rights, so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible and inalienable rights.
United States Power and Unilateralism
The US dominates the world militarily and increasingly attempts to do so politically. The US maintains nuclear and conventional capabilities far superior to any other and spends more on its military than the next 25 biggest spenders combined. No other nation in modern history has maintained this level of power in relation to all others. Furthermore, in the late 20th and early 21st century, the US increasingly exercised its influence unilaterally by: choosing not to pay fully its dues to the UN; expressing reservations about the International Criminal Court; refusing to ratify a number of international instruments such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Landmine Treaty, and a number of human rights conventions; adopting a critical posture on UN negotiations on small arms; withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change; withdrawing from the World Conference against Racism early in September 2001; and seeking selectively to implement UN Security Council resolutions.
US unilateralism is accompanied by increasing militarism. Our government seems ready to use military means to confront its perceived adversaries, at times without exploring, much less exhausting, less violent policy options. It also increasingly tries to bend the world's will to its own through unilateral actions such as: withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (the first time any country has formally withdrawn its signature from such a convention); refusing to support UN peacekeeping operations until US armed forces were made exempt from the provisions of the ICC; withdrawing from efforts to agree on a verification protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention; and disregarding the Geneva conventions for those captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo.
These actions undermine international institutions such as the UN built to serve the common good, jeopardize the development of systems of common security for the world as a whole, and lead to deep resentment over the relative impotence other nations and peoples endure in the face of overwhelming US power. On the whole, citizens of the United States see our government and ourselves as making positive and life-giving contributions to the world around us, and certainly many illustrations of our generosity and inspiring legacy exist. Increasingly, however, many in the world perceive us as gaining advantages for ourselves at their expense. Our country's erosion of genuinely multilateral institutions, protections, and obligations undermines the possibilities of creating an enduring, global security system that safeguards the well-being of all people everywhere and risks provoking further attacks on our homeland and people.
The UN Security Council Resolution on the Disarmament of Iraq, adopted on November 8, 2002, encourages us even as we remain concerned that the US government maintains its threat to go to war with or without the Council's authorizations.
As we struggle with what it means to be Christians and churches in the most powerful and one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we restate our firm conviction, as expressed in the first, third, and seventh "Pillars of Peace," that,
o Peace rooted in justice requires increased political collaboration and accountability within the United Nations system, among regional bodies, governments, local authorities, peoples' organizations, and global economic structures to seek the common good and equality for all.
o Peace rooted in justice requires a comprehensive international legal system capable of change, as conditions require, in order to prevent and resolve conflicts, to protect rights, to hold accountable those who disturb peace and violate international law, and to provide fair and effective review and enforcement mechanisms.
o Peace rooted in justice requires a commitment to the long-term sustainability of the means of life, and profound reorientation of economic systems and individual lifestyles to support ecological justice for human communities in harmony with the whole of creation.
Religion and Violence
The US is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. It relates internationally to peoples and nations of all faith traditions. Those killed on September 11, 2001 came from many different countries and faith communities. Yet those who attacked the United States on September 11 claimed to do so out of religious motivation. In the late 20th century and in the early 21st century, as in earlier eras, religion is used increasingly to legitimize violence, aggression, war, and terrorism. Through its policy, "Interfaith Relations and the Churches," the NCCCUSA stated in 1999 that,
In many parts of the world, religion plays an important role in politics, in economic and social development or the lack of it, in communal strife or reconciliation. We see the growth of fundamentalism among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus. We note the central role religion often plays in a community's understanding of justice, moral good, and its own identity, and we see the involvement of religion for good and for ill in struggles in many places in the world. News reports often reinforce our stereotypes and provide an erroneous base of information from which many form lasting impressions of other religious traditions and those who practice them.
Now more than ever, the world needs for religious communities to work together for peace with justice. All religions provide a basis on which to build human communities where all can thrive, believers and non-believers alike. We as Christians need to strengthen our own theological understandings and models of work and witness that promote concrete possibilities for overcoming religiously-sanctioned stereotypes, violence and hatred with peace, justice, and love.
As Christians we believe that "all are made in the image of God…" and "all are equal in God's sight…"
To create communities that uphold these values, Christian churches, now more than ever before, must forge strong bonds with people and organizations of other faith traditions in local, national, and international arenas to address common concerns and intensify interfaith dialogue. Again and again, we give thanks to God for the outpouring of prayers, good will, and close collaboration among people of diverse faith groups in the wake of September 11, 2001. These developments testify to the remarkable ability of all people to work toward healing deep wounds and creating new commitments to life out of circumstances of death and destruction.
As we seek to live faithfully in a world of many faiths, we restate our firm conviction from the NCCCUSA policy statement on "Interfaith Relations and the Churches" that,
In the light of our reflections on Christian discipleship, we can discern ways to approach the challenges of our multi-religious society. We will serve faithfully, meeting others with open hearts and minds…True relationship involves risk…True relationship respects the other's identity…True relationship is based on integrity…True relationship is rooted in accountability and respect…True relationship offers an opportunity to serve.
Citizenship as Christians
As citizens and residents of the United States of America, we give thanks to God for the rich blessings of this good and bounteous land and for our noble heritage of democracy, religious tolerance and freedom, and human rights. We hope, dream and work for the day when everyone in our nation will share fully in this prosperity and freedom. Our love of and dedication to our country require that we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to the highest standards and ideals of a democratic society where the well-being of each person is the concern of all.
We also live as part of a wider, interdependent world for which we give thanks to God. As members of the global community, we understand that our needs are inseparably interwoven with the needs of others. The safety and success of our country can only be achieved and sustained through relationships of mutuality and reciprocity that secure justice and freedom for all peoples and nations.
As Christians, we put our security in the hands of Jesus Christ and the biblical witness that says, "perfect love casts out fear." 1 John 4:18a
 See websites for the US Department of State www.state.gov, the US Department of Defense www.dod.gov, and "The National Security Strategy of the United States," September 20, 2002, www.whitehouse.gov. See also Joseph Nye. The Paradox of Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
 Diana Eck. A New Religious America: How A "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation. (Harper, San Francisco, 2001).
 "Interfaith Relations and the Churches: A Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA." Adopted by the NCC General Assembly on November 10, 1999.