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Church mission executives issue call for peace

1/31/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: A photograph of the Rev. R. Randy Day is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html.

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Staff leaders of the United Methodist Church's mission agency issued an international call Jan. 31 for peace and justice in Iraq.

The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, noted the need for prayer and advocacy on that issue. "We are praying that God will provide an alternative to a United States-led attack on Iraq, and we are also praying that the leaders of Iraq will give strong assurances of their commitment to peace and freedom for their people," he said in a response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

"We tried to find in the address some signs that the U.S. would allow a larger window for the arms inspection and negotiations processes," he added in the statement released by the Board of Global Ministries. "Finding none, we are deeply fearful of a massive military conflict that will result in thousands of military and civilian deaths.

"As Christians, our prayers should include government leaders, military personnel and their families, and the sure-to-be victims on all sides," Day said. "We should also pray for the souls of those who in business and commerce welcome war because it enriches them."

The statement noted the stand against war in the denomination's Social Principles and the need to avert war if at all possible. "As a major American humanitarian organization, we at the board are agonized by the possibility of being called upon to bring medical and material aid to persons who would not be homeless or injured except for bombs that might have been avoided," Day said.

He called upon all participants in the global United Methodist mission community - missionaries, staff, program networks, volunteers, supportive congregations and employees of institutions - to set aside at least 15 minutes each day to pray for a peaceful settlement to the Iraqi crisis. He also urged them to organize public peace vigils and prayer services, and to speak out to government officials on behalf of a negotiated settlement in Iraq.

Joyce Sohl, chief executive of the board's Women's Division, pointed to the work already being done in the ongoing Campaign for Peace: Christian Women Pray for Peace, launched in early December by the division. United Methodist Women also are collecting "postcards for peace" to be used in an Easter Vigil for Peace at the White House in Washington. More information is available at http://gbgm-umc.org./umw/prayers4peace.html online.

Last October, Women's Division directors rejected an armed attack on Iraq as a way to respond to the Iraqi arms situation and urged both the United States and the United Nations to "pursue peaceful means in resolving conflicts with Iraq."

The Rev. Paul Dirdak, chief executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, noted that nongovernmental relief organizations are gearing up for a "new robust presence in Iraq to repair the damage which U.S. or other bombers and tanks will do in the event of war."

He expressed concern about initiating such efforts if an alternative to war can be found.

"This is a hard issue, but we must be careful lest our humanitarian efforts be used to somehow sanitize and excuse war," Dirdak said. "We must be careful about what we ask the people of the United Methodist Church to support. As the church, we must also struggle with the issue of whether or how we accept funds for humanitarian aid from governments that offer them as part of their combat planning. If and when the time comes that there is no longer any possibility - whatsoever - that war can be avoided, our church will do everything that is financially and humanly possible to come to the aid of people who suffer."

For more information on UMCOR's work, go to the board's Web site at http://gbgm-umc.org/.

Only the United Methodist General Conference speaks for the entire church. The denomination's top legislative assembly meets every four years and will convene again in 2004.

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