"DEFEAT FOR HUMANITY" - A Church View On Iraqi War

(03/10/2003)

charleston gazette.com

Writing in Sunday’s New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter noted that President Bush’s plan for an unprovoked military attack on weak, little Iraq is opposed by most Christian church leaders, except for a few “Bible prophecy” believers who think a Mideast war would hasten the return of Jesus.

Carter said Bush’s proposed assault wouldn’t meet religious standards for a “just war,” and would be “almost unprecedented in the history of civilized nations.” He objected that Bush intends “to launch 3,000 bombs and missiles on a relatively defenseless Iraqi population” while Iraq’s “obnoxious leader ... will most likely be hidden and safe during the bombardment.”

Carter’s protest is part of growing religious opposition to the White House war fever.

For example, President Bush is a Methodist — yet his own church is dismayed by his strange desire to unleash what Sunday’s Washington Post called “the first war without direct provocation in the nation’s history.”

West Virginia United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove joined a six-member U.S. religious delegation that went to Rome specifically to assure European leaders that American churches don’t support Bush.

“I believe, as do many, that it is a rush to war,” Grove declared, “and that this war, if it occurs, doesn’t meet the criteria of a ‘just war’ in any sense.”

A statement issued by the West Virginia United Methodist headquarters said the bishop “believes U.S. military action against Iraq is morally unjustified.” Grove added that he made the European trip “to let them know how many Americans and American Christians feel.”

Grove met with Pope John Paul II and expressed agreement with the Catholic position that “the Vatican will consider an invasion of Iraq a war of aggression.”

Meanwhile, the bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic diocese issued a Lenten message voicing similar alarm over Bush’s war plan. The Rev. Bernard W. Schmitt declared:

“This year, we are especially mindful of the pressing need for peace in our world, especially with the crisis in Iraq and the possibility of war there. ... The bishops in the United States have called for all nations to take concrete steps to avoid war and build peace based on respect for international law and for all human life. We also stand with leaders in many religions and denominations urging another way. ...

“War is not always inevitable and it is always a defeat for humanity. ... It’s not too late for solutions to the Iraqi crisis that avert war and diffuse the pressing threat Iraq poses.”

During the weekend, top leaders of the Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and American Baptist denominations met in Washington and drafted a proposal to prevent Bush’s military attack. Instead, they urged that dictator Saddam Hussein be charged with war crimes by a U.N. tribunal, and international steps be taken to put him under arrest, as occurred with former Serbian tyrant Slobodan Milosevic.

The proposal also calls for creation of a Palestinian state by 2005 — a goal ardently sought by Mideast Muslims. Episcopal Bishop John Chane said he hopes this provision will defuse “the view of many people in the Middle East that this is a 21st century Christian crusade against Islam.”

Much has been written about President Bush’s deep involvement with fundamentalist groups that support his invasion plan. But we wish he would heed these other church voices instead.


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