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Church leaders urge U.N. leadership in Iraq

 


Church leaders urge U.N. leadership in Iraq

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (center, beneath U.N. logo) meets with delegates from the National Council of Churches.

May 25, 2004 

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — An international ecumenical delegation, including United Methodists, has met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to support that body’s involvement in Iraq.

On May 24 — the same day as the 40-minute meeting between the religious leaders and Annan — the U.N. Security Council began discussing a new resolution defining the role of the United Nations in Iraq. A draft resolution introduced by the United States and Great Britain backed the proposal of U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for transfer of power to a caretaker government on June 30, and endorsed a timetable for U.N.-planned elections for a national Iraqi assembly by the end of January, according to the New York Times.

In a live televised address later that evening, President Bush said the U.S. government has a five-point plan for Iraq that includes the June 30 transfer of power, elections as early as January and encouragement of more international support.

Organized by the National Council of Churches and led by the Rev. Robert Edgar, a United Methodist pastor and the agency’s chief executive, the 11-member delegation advocated for U.N. leadership in Iraq.

“We believe that it’s important for the religious community to weigh in at this time,” Edgar said during a press conference at the Church Center for the United Nations, following the meeting with Annan. Those who opposed the war in Iraq and those who supported the war need to come together and find “an alternate way out of the current situation,” Edgar said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
UMNS photo by John Goodwin.

The Rev. Robert Edgar (left) and Jim Winkler were part of an 11-member NCC delegation that met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, pointed to the need for the United Nations to establish its own plan for working with the transitional Iraqi government and to avoid just becoming a tool of the U.S. transition process.

“We urged him (Annan) to really make sure the United Nations has authority in this situation,” he told United Methodist News Service.

Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the United Nations is clearly “the crucial link” for Iraq to move from occupation to self-governance.

Such opinions are not confined to U.S. church leaders. The Rev. Keith Clements, chief executive of the Conference of European Churches, pointed out that the European church community wants to see “a truly multilateral approach to this crisis” and considers the United Nations to be “the main instrument” in achieving that goal.

Winkler noted that the NCC delegation also offered pastoral support to the U.N. secretary-general and spoke about issues beyond Iraq, such as global poverty, HIV/AIDS and environmental degradation.

“In a larger sense, the world is at a crossroads,” Winkler said. “We encouraged him to think about having an annual ‘state of the world’ address.”

Although he acknowledged that the United Nations hasn’t always been popular with Americans, Winkler pointed to the United Methodist Church’s long involvement with and commitment to that institution — a commitment embodied in the denomination-owned building across the street from U.N. headquarters. “We really have stood by the United Nations since its inception,” he said.

Annan, who met a week earlier with the Rev. Sam Kobia of the World Council of Churches, has always been open to dialogue with religious leaders, Edgar observed. “I was pleased at how well we were received by the secretary-general,” he added.

Other members of the delegation included the Rev. Karen Hamilton, chief executive, Canadian Council of Churches; Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; the Rev. Cliff Kirkpatrick, stated clerk, Presbyterian Church USA; the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, ecumenical officer, Orthodox Church in America; the Rev. Michael Livingston, executive director, International Council of Community Churches; the Rev. Paul Renshaw, coordinating secretary of international affairs, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland; Tony Kireopoulos, NCC executive for international affairs and peace.

Carol Fouke accompanied the group as NCC media liaison.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

News media can contact Linda Bloom at (646) 369-3759 or e-mail newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

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