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Faith-based groups speak out

From Vietnam and Panama to the Gulf War and Afghanistan, faith-based opposition to U.S. intervention in foreign wars has been the backbone of the peace movement.

Iraq 2002 is no different.

Over the past month, as the Bush administration ratcheted up its war rhetoric and planning, the religious left responded with petitions, protests, and pleas for peace:

More than 13,000 people have signed a “peace pledge” whose sponsors include the American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, and Pax Christi USA. A separate “pledge of resistance” commits signatories to “join with others to engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience at U.S. federal facilities, congressional offices, military installations and other appropriate places.”

Gathered for a late August meeting of the World Council of Churches, 38 representatives of U.S., Canadian and British Christian churches urged “restraint” even “as the calls for military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq have grown louder.” Those issuing the statement included National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar, and leaders of the United Methodist Church USA, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Episcopal Church USA, the Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA). In a separate statement, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said, “We must stand unequivocally for peace.”

Since Sept. 1, three Dominicans and a Catholic lay minister have been fasting for peace. Their daily vigils in Union Square Park have drawn support from the approximately 150 people who engage the fasters on any given day, said Dominican Fr. Brian Pierce. “No one has been belligerent, and a small number tell us we’re wasting our time, but 98 percent have been supportive,” said Pierce.

More than 700 School Sisters of Notre Dame signed a letter to President Bush voicing their “strong opposition to the planned invasion of Iraq as an immoral and illegal action.”

Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, auxiliary of Detroit, has visited Iraq and has consistently spoken out against both the sanctions imposed against that country and any plans to invade. However, the U.S. Catholic bishops have yet to offer their collective view of war with Iraq. In a statement issued to commemorate the anniversary of Sept. 11, the bishops’ administrative committee urged that the war on terrorism “be fought with the support of the international community and primarily by nonmilitary means.”

In December 1998, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, then chairman of the conference’s International Policy Committee, said the “use of military force against Iraq is deeply troubling and raises serious moral concerns.”

-- Joe Feuerherd

National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2002