Pastoral Message on The War in Iraq
Adopted by the Governing Board
Affirmed by the General Assembly
November 7-9, 2006
To Members of Congress, People of Faith, and All People of Goodwill:
In the months preceding the United States' invasion of Iraq, leaders of member communions within the National Council of Churches USA, along with Roman Catholic and other Church leaders worldwide, expressed the conviction that the war with Iraq was not warranted, even as our country was involved in what was termed by the US Government as a global "war on terror." Since that time, many justifications have been given for this war: the need to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction; 'the desirability of planting a new democracy in the Middle East; the need t0 destroy a major base for terrorism; and Iraq's connection to the 9/11 attacks against America.
All of these justifications have been revealed as false or ill-considered. For this reason, the National Council of Churches USA repeats its call that this war must be brought to an end.
Our view of this war in Iraq is informed by our belief that war is contrary to the will of God, and an affront to God's creation (Genesis 6: 11-12). Some member communions, therefore, including the historic peace churches, believe that all war is sin and never justified, and that participation by Christians in war cannot be sanctioned, even as others might consider it as engagement in a "lesser evil" to overcome a "greater evil." Other member communions hold that war can sometimes be justified if certain criteria are met. The cause or case for military action must be just, the war must be sanctioned by recognized governments, the war must be carried out so as to minimize civilian casualties, the destruction and death must not exceed in proportion the potential gain of peace and/or justice, and the war must be clearly a last resort. Whether one views the war in Iraq from the peace church perspective, or from that of the churches informed by a "just war" tradition, it is clear to the member churches that this war violates the churches' clear ethical norms.
We believe that our calling is to be co-workers with God in the creation of God's promised reign, by transforming our present world into a community of goodwill (Romans 12:9-21). Because scripture is our guide, we believe that all people are called to seek peace (Matthew 5:9) and to turn our swords into plowshares (Micah 4:3-4). We take this call seriously, mindful of what befalls a country that takes the path of arrogance, self-righteousness, and even hubris (Isaiah 2:5-11).
As men and women of faith, we believe that freedom, along with genuine security, is based in God, and is served by the recognition of humanity's interdependence, and by working with partners to bring about community, development, and reconciliation for all, and that such freedom and security is not served by this war in Iraq. And we mourn the tremendous toll this war has taken on both US and Iraqi societies, and foresee a future of even more instability in the region and in the world should this war in Iraq continue.
As Americans, we affirm that the solution to so many problems in the world requires the moral leadership, in addition to the technological and economic leadership, that the United States can offer, and we lament, with our partners in the global church, the lapse in such ·moral leadership and also credibility in recent years, especially as it pertains to our country's justification and conduct of this war in Iraq.
Therefore, united together as the National Council of Churches USA, we call upon the US Government to recognize that the continued presence of occupying forces has not provided 'meaningful security for Iraqi citizens and only exacerbates escalating violence, and begin an immediate phased withdrawal of American and coalition forces from Iraq with a timetable that provides for an expeditious final troop withdrawal. And we further call upon our government to link this withdrawal plan to benchmarks for rebuilding Iraqi society, since the reconstruction of infrastructure, the restoration of essential services, and a foundation for economic growth are necessary to nurture Iraqi hopes for a stable future, and to steps to meet the security concerns of all Iraqis, including the more vulnerable, smaller ethnic and religious communities.
We urge our government to give meaningful support to US troops, which includes bringing active and reserve forces home from this war; providing soldiers still in harm's way with adequate armor to protect them from gunfire and explosive devices; giving earned benefits to veterans, especially injured veterans, of this war in which they have valiantly served; and honoring the sacrifice made by those who have died in this war by making adequate provision for surviving family members and creating a withdrawal plan that brings such sacrifices to an end. And we insist that our government begin a process for restoring trust in its conduct of foreign policy and multilateral engagement, damaged and undermined by a pattern of deception both in the arguments made by the Administration leading up to the war, as well as during the conduct of the war.
Also together, as an ecumenical organization that brings together diverse churches in the search for Christian unity and in common witness, we pledge that our member communions will continue to: educate their members on the ways that lead to peace; promote moral choices in foreign policy, so that the well being of our own nation and of all peoples may be established; and pray and work for peace and reconciliation, in Iraq, the Middle East, and throughout the world.
Finally the National Council of Churches USA pledges that the leaders of our own member communions will give bold and public witness to these calls and affirmations within our own communions and ecumenically in public settings.