Christian leaders call for end to US strikes in Iraq, focus on peaceful resolution

September 2, 2014


Even as some prominent Christians are calling on the U.S. to take more forceful military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to halt American airstrikes and pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict.

“While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer,” the 53 clergy, theologians and religious sisters and brothers write in the Aug. 27 open letter.

“Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq,” they continue. “As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.”

The signatories note that while Pope Francis recently said it was “licit to stop the unjust aggressor” — referring to the Islamic State, or IS — the pontiff underscored that he was not endorsing bombing or warfare.

Among the Catholic signers are Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network; Gerry G. Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA;  and Sister Janet Mock, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Others include Susan T. Henry-Crowe, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, in addition to numerous university professors and other Protestant denominational leaders.

The signers argued that many factors contributed to the current volatile mix in the Middle East, including past U.S. political and military campaigns in the region. And they point to the American strikes that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 as an example of how that approach has backfired.

“More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention,” they write.

The letter writers list eight specific recommendations for their “just peace” agenda, including an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the armed groups.

This week’s letter stands in stark contrast to a petition launched earlier this month by more than 50 Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists who demanded that Obama sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They said “nothing short of the destruction” of the Islamic State can protect Christians and other religious minorities.

Also this month, Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist at Princeton University, told televangelist Pat Robertson that the U.S. has to lead a campaign to destroy the IS, and he said he would support sending ground troops to Iraq if that’s what it takes to do the job.

  1. A presbyterian Elder in Iraq wrote the following after he read the statement Dear Rev. Nuhad, Excuse my sadness after reading that statements from those who are living in their ivory castles, let them come to live in Iraq for a month and see what is going on daily and then to issue their statements. We are not fighting humans they are sort of animals or less, and just for sake of every body knowledge, the American fighter is to protect Kurdistan! Not Iraq, and US is not taking the matter seriously and the Christian ,their homes and their lands are not important issue now. Instated of issuing such a statement why not put a pressure on countries in the region who are supporting ISIS by billions of dollars? Why not rising their voices to protect Christians? US government is responsible for all what is happening because they destroyed Iraq and it's army in 2003, then left it to a punche of politicians who care for their bank account only.

    by Nuhad Tomeh

    September 4, 2014

  2. Of course it is preferable to seek peaceful solutions to all problems when dealing with governments and leaders of movements. Nevertheless we cannot hide in the modern mythology and psychology that attempt to minimize or deny the reality of radical evil. To deny that evil is an active force in creation only results in the genocides and holocausts that have been prevalent in the last century. To think that Daesh (ISIS) is simply some misguided religious radicals that can be swayed by logic and love is simply naïve and foolish. Worse yet, believing that nonviolence is the best way to deal with evil is to make those who believe this tactic unwilling accomplices in the death and suffering that results from waiting for evil to simply fade away. The West prayed and waited for the evil of the Third Reich to subside but that is not what finally overcame the evil actions of Hitler and friends. This is not to say that every conflict is motivated by radical evil but at the same time it does not mean that we can abandon resistance to radical evil. Thinking that the violence resulting from US actions will only negatively affect the next generation of radical Muslims is to ignore the reality that Daesh members are teaching their young children to behead their dolls and pose for photos holding up the heads of slaughtered “non believers”. If the present evil is to be stopped, those living in the US must come to understand and admit that we are involved in the Third World War declared by all Jihadists around the globe. Certainly bombs will not destroy the radical evil that motivates people but unfortunately neither will negotiation. Only Jesus Christ and the Power of God are able to finally eliminate radical evil once and for all. Regardless, until that time we must be vigilant and realistic regarding the existence of radical evil and its active desire to destroy what God has created.

    by Timothy V. Stover

    September 4, 2014

  3. Let us suggest that Mr. Parsons and company could do with a little “Niebuhrian” realism. If he were here to read their letter in light of recent developments in Syria and Iraq, we believe that he would conclude that they have made two cardinal errors. First, they have adopted a naïve view of human nature that is clearly un-Reformed. Second, they have embraced overly optimistic – maybe even utopian – notions about the ability of diplomacy to solve international problems. Beyond that, we are curious about Mr. Parsons’s warrant for signing such a letter as Stated Clerk of the PC(U.S.A.). Robert and Sylvia Dooling

    by Robert and Sylvia Dooling

    September 3, 2014

  4. ISIS is a violent men's political organization bent on killing Jews and US citizens. We do not have the mental hospital beds or the time to make these people whole. They have judged themselves to be more righteous than any others. Let them each have their 72 virgins. I do not believe Allah will be waiting on them. And I do not believe Allah is my God.

    by William J. Skinner, JD

    September 3, 2014

  5. fully agree with Rev John Johnson the peaceful solution for ISIS is to eliminate all who disagree with them , you area all wasting your time and just making statements which will not bring peace but more violence,and indirectly encourage the radicals such as ISIS

    by Nuhad Tomeh

    September 3, 2014

  6. I share not so much pain but astonishment. ISIS/ISL has no interest in "peaceful means to end the conflict." For them, the "peaceful means" would be for the rest of us to renounce our faith. This is a very serious, horrible situation and Woodstock talk will not resolve it.

    by John A. Johnson (Rev., JD)

    September 3, 2014

  7. As a member of the PC USA for over sixty years, it pains me to see the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly as a signatory of the open letter calling for an end to US air strikes in Iraq. The air support that the United States is providing in Iraq is responsible for stopping the Islamic State’s brutality toward the Yazidis and Christians as well as Muslims who refuse to submit to their radical ideology. Is the stated clerk willing to let the murder of the Yazidis and Christians in northern Iraq continue while waiting to see whether an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the Islamic State will be effective? Russell Smith, PhD

    by Russell G. Smith, PhD

    September 2, 2014

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