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Interfaith leaders issue call for reflection on Iraqi war and peace

5/1/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom (646) 369-3759 New York

By United Methodist News Service

Participants in an interfaith summit April 29-30 in Chicago, issued "An Urgent Call for Reflection, Hope and Action" regarding the end of the war in Iraq and the need for worldwide peace.

More than 75 Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other faith leaders gathered to address the humanitarian, spiritual and civil costs of war and its ramifications for the United States. United Methodists participants included Jan Love, a professor and interfaith relations specialist; the Rev. Robert Edgar, chief executive, National Council of Churches, and the Rev. John McCullough, executive director, Church World Service.

The summit document calls on President Bush to:

· draw back from the use and threat of "first-strike" war;
· draw back from unilateral U.S. control over the reconstruction of Iraq;
· bring the U.S. occupation to a prompt end by transferring to the United Nations and multilateral, non-governmental organizations the authority to work with the Iraqi people toward Iraq's own reconstruction;
· make available U.S. resources as part of a world effort to serve the needs and decisions of the Iraqi people.

In a second document, titled "Words of Reflection," the religious leaders called for a national day of prayer and reflection, with a special emphasis on interfaith gatherings.

Additional signers of the documents include United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, ecumenical officer for the denomination's Council of Bishops, and Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher, council president. The documents will be posted at www.ncccusa.org, the NCC Web site, where others can add their names to the list of signers.

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Full texts of the "Urgent Call" and "Words of Reflection" follow.


AN URGENT CALL FOR REFLECTION, HOPE AND ACTION
Interfaith Summit
Chicago, Illinois
April 30, 2003

As people of faith and leaders of diverse religious communities, we recognize that we are at a moment of choice even more urgent than before the war in Iraq began. We are faced with choices between hope and courage or fear and violence; between a future characterized by global solidarity, international cooperation and multilateral action or one characterized by unilateralism and wars by choice rather than necessity; continuing terrorism; unfettered efforts to extend U.S. power, and the exploitation of fear.

Let us not forget who we are as people of faith. We need to go deeper into our religious traditions. Fear is part of the human condition and is only addressed through faith. We are challenged now to trust in God and recognize the source of true security. Our traditions teach us to envision a world of peace with justice. They promise God's capacity to transform a broken world and God's expectation that we are partners in the process.

As many Americans celebrate a moment of military victory, we, as people of faith, ask all people to make this a time of deliberate reflection.

As we have since 9/11 and the beginning of the war on terrorism: we call for greater understanding; we seek to dispel ignorance; we ask that this be a time of humility not arrogance; and, we hope that all can be mindful of what we have lost. We are mindful that while a repressive regime has been destroyed, a country has been left in a power vacuum. We know as well that those people experience their daily life as one of enormous needs and insecurity.

War is a blunt instrument, which provides no lasting solution but too often leads to further violence. We ask the American people to reflect now on the price of unilateralism:

· The cost of war and militarism
· The human toll of the war in Iraq
· The erosion of civil liberties in the United States
· The shift of resources away from human need to military purposes

In order to reflect most effectively on the choices that we face we call on interfaith leaders in every American community to gather in town meetings, teach-ins and other forms of community reflection to explore what kind of society we seek to become.

Drawing on all of our traditions that are rooted in justice, compassion and peace, we say to the present leadership of the United States:

1. draw back from the use and threat of first strike war
2. draw back from unilateral U.S. control over the reconstruction of Iraq
3. bring the U.S. occupation of Iraq to a prompt end by transferring to the United Nations and multilateral, non-governmental organizations the authority to work with the Iraqi people toward its own reconstruction
4. make available U.S. resources as part of a world effort to serve the needs and decisions of the Iraqi people.

Finally, we call on our fellow religious leaders throughout the world to join in convening an INTERNATIONAL INTERFAITH SUMMIT that will provide a worldwide forum for religious leaders to meet and discuss in depth ways to eliminate the rhetoric of hate and to end violence perpetrated in the name of religion. Together we must work to find ways to embody the power of love, compassion and justice in this fragile and interdependent world. We live in HOPE!


Words of Reflection
April 30, 2003
From Domestic Interfaith Summit
Chicago, IL

We are thankful for the end of large-scale hostilities, the end of an oppressive regime, and the safe return of our troops.

We acknowledge the many sacrifices, and mourn all the loss of life.

We call for a national day of prayer and reflection, with a special emphasis on interfaith gatherings.

We further call on the President to distance himself from religious leaders who demonize the faiths of others.

We are compelled to call people's attention to the continuing suffering of the Iraqi people, which demands large-scale international humanitarian relief.

Our religious traditions require that when we exercise power we reflect deeply on the consequences of our actions and the true source of peace and security. In this spirit, we encourage local religious communities to organize interfaith days of fasting, prayer, and dialogue, which will raise, among other vital concerns, those addressed in the accompanying, "Urgent Call For Reflection, Hope and Action," and to commit themselves to donations for humanitarian relief for the people of Iraq.

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