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Religious Organizations, Academics, and Ministers Urge Alternative to U.S. Military in Iraq

Posted by Ryan Hall
09.15.14
Peacemaking is more corageous than warfare

The following letter was sent to President Obama in late August and it was delivered to the full Senate and to much of the House on Friday September 12.

63 National Religious Organizations, Academics, and Ministers
Urge Alternatives to U.S. Military Action in Iraq

Dear President Obama,

As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. 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. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. 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.

Pope Francis has affirmed that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare,” and more recently said that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop;’ I don’t say bomb, make war—stop him.” But how we ask?

In addition to the complex factors spilling over from the civil war in Syria and pressure from other neighbors, decades of U.S. political and military intervention, coupled with inadequate social reconciliation programs, have significantly contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.

The current state of crisis and the breakdown of state institutions in Libya provide another stark example of the failure of a militarized strategy. Like Libya, the air strikes in Iraq will ultimately fail to build and maintain sustainable peace in the long-term.

We understand and deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians. However, even when tactics of violent force yield a short term displacement of the adversary’s violence, such violence toward armed actors is often self-perpetuating, as the retributive violence that flares up in response will only propitiate more armed intervention in a tit-for-tat escalation without addressing the root causes of the conflict. We see this over and over again. It is not “necessary” to continue down this road of self-destruction, as Pope Francis called the hostilities of war the “suicide of humanity.”

There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict. Using an alternative frame, here are some “just peace” ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention. To begin, the United States should take the following steps:

  • Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of grievances that contribute to the global justification for the Islamic State’s existence among its supporters.
  • Provide robust humanitarian assistance to those who are fleeing the violence. Provide food and much needed supplies in coordination with the United Nations.
  • Deploy and significantly invest in professionally trained unarmed civilian protection organizations to assist and offer some buffer for displaced persons and refugees, both for this conflict in collaboration with Iraqi’s and for future conflicts.[2]
  • Call for and uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. U.S. arms and military assistance to the government forces and ethnic militias in Iraq, in addition to arming Syrian rebel groups, have only fueled the carnage, in part due to weapons intended for one group being taken and used by others. All armed parties have been accused of committing gross violations of human rights. Along with Russia, work with key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to take independent initiatives and meaningful steps towards an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict.
  • Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the international community on diplomatic efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq. Ensure a significantly more inclusive Iraqi government along with substantive programs of social reconciliation to interrupt the flow and perhaps peel-back some of the persons joining the Islamic State. In the diplomatic strategy, particularly include those with influence on key actors in the Islamic State.
    • Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and expand the agenda to include regional peace and stability. Ensure Iran’s full participation in the process.
  • Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties. For example, experts[1] have suggested strategies such as parallel institutions, dispersed disruptions, and economic non-cooperation.
  • Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.
  • Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level. Deep sectarian and ethnic divisions have long been exacerbated by various factors, including the U.S. military intervention in 2003. Sustainable peace will require peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts from the ground up.

With hope, deep-felt prayers, and a splash of courage, we ask you to move us beyond the ways of war and into the frontier of just peace responses to violent conflict.

Sincerely,

National Religious Organizations

Susan T. Henry-Crowe, MDiv.DD
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Janet Mock, CSJ
Executive Director
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Shan Cretin
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
Co-Executive,
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United C. of Christ

Rev. Dr. James Moos
Co-Executive,
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United C. of Christ

Sandy Sorensen
Director, DC office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Eli McCarthy, PhD
Director of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Stanley J. Noffsinger,
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Sr. Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

Marie Dennis
Co-President
Pax Christi International

Gerry G. Lee
Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Scott Wright
Director
Columban Center for Advoc. and Outreach

Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM
U.S. Regional Superior of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX
Provincial Superior of Xaverian Missionaries in U.S.

Very Rev. Domenico Di Raimondo, M.Sp.S.
Prov. Sup. of Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
Christ the Priest Province

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Rev. Michael Neuroth
Policy Advocate for International Issues
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Rev. Séamus P. Finn OMI
Director, JPIC Ministry
Missionary Oblates

Fr. Bill Remmel, SDS
Justice and Peace Coordinator
Society of the Divine Savior

Fr. John Converset, MCCJ
Director
Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
N. American Province of Comboni Missionaries

Sr. Maureen Foltz, CCV
North American Regional Coordinator
Carmelites, Vedruna

Bro. Jerry O’Leary
Coordinator for Justice and Peace
Xaverian Brothers

Religious Academics

María Teresa Dávila, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Andover Newton Theological School

Bill Barbieri, PhD
Prof. of Relig. and Culture and Moral Theology/Ethics
Catholic University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

Sr. Marianne Farina, CSC
Ethics Professor
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Laurie Johnston, PhD
Assist. Prof. of Theology and Religious Studies
Emmanuel College

Rev. Priscilla Eppinger, PhD
Associate Professor of Religion
Graceland University/Community of Christ Seminary

Peter Phan, PhD
Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought
Georgetown University

Fr. Ray Kemp, S.T.L.
Theology Professor
Georgetown University

Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Parkman Professor of Divinity
Director, Center for the Study of World Relig.
Harvard University

Betty Reardon, PhD
Founding Director Emeritus
International Institute on Peace Education

Maureen O’Connell, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology
Chair of Department of Religion
LaSalle University

Amir Hussain, PhD
Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

Kathleen Maas Weigert, PhD
Carolyn Farrell, BVM, Professor of Women and Leadership
Loyola University Chicago

David Cortright, PhD
Director of Policy Studies
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Notre Dame University

Margaret Pfeil, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology/Ethics
Notre Dame University

John Berkman, PhD
Professor of Moral Theology
Regis College, University of Toronto

Mark Miller, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology
Associate Director of St. Ignatius Institute
University of San Francisco

Gerald W. Schlabach, PhD
Professor of Theology
University of St. Thomas

John Sniegocki, PhD
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Director, Peace Studies Minor
Xavier University

Kathryn Getek Soltis, PhD
Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Villanova University

Suzanne C. Toton, EdD
Theology and Religious Studies Department
Villanova University

Religious Leaders

Rev. Louis Arceneaux, C.M.
Promoter of Peace and Justice
Western Province, Congregation of the Mission, USA

Fr. Robert Bossie, SCJ
Priests of the Sacred Heart
Chicago, IL

Fr. John A. Coleman, S.J.
Society of Jesus, Saint Ignatius Parish
San Francisco, CA

John E. Deegan, O.S.A.
Director, Peace & Justice
Augustinians, Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

Doreen Glynn, CSJ
Justice Coordinator
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province
Br. Michael Gosch, CSV

Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Director
Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Karen J. Hartman, SFP
Coordinator of Office of US Area JPIC
Franciscan Sisters of the Poor

Jude A. Huntz, Director
Office for Peace and Justice
Archdiocese of Chicago

Bro. Brian McLauchlin, SVD
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Promoter

Bro. Frank O’Donnell, SM
Marianist

Brian Reavey
Lay-Marianist

Mark Schroeder, O.F.M.
JPIC Animator
Franciscans for Justice

Bro. Mitchell Schweickart, SM
Marianist

Bro. Jerry Sullivan, SM
Marianist

Rev. Dr. Peter A. Wells
Justice LED Organizer

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Colleen Williams
Community of Sant’ Egidio

Bro. Stan Zubek, SM
Marianist

[1] http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2014/06/how-nonviolent-action-could-thwart-isils-advance-iraq/87478/

[2] Examples: www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org, and OSCE.

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