Antikriegsdemo - National Council of Churches in the USA
Elisabeth Ferris, World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Our hearts are heavy this afternoon as bombs and bullets are raining down on Iraq. At a time like this, it is good to come together to express our anger at the political leaders who are responsible for these actions and our solidarity with the victims.
I come before you today as an American who is deeply grieved by the violence my government is sowing in Iraq and the Middle East. The World Council of Churches, where I work, has steadfastly opposed this war as have almost all of our 342 member churches. But I also come from the broader church community in the United States which has also worked non-stop for the past four months to prevent this terrible tragedy. The story of US church actions to try to stop this rush to war is not widely known in Europe.
Since January US church leaders have been pressing to meet with President Bush to tell him of their moral opposition to the war, but he has refused to see them. The National Council of Churches organized a high-level church delegation to Iraq over Christmas and has sent church delegations to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and senior officials of the French and Russian governments. It is perhaps ironic that US church leaders have been received by the highest political leaders in Europe - but were unable to get a meeting with their own president.
These actions were not enough to stem the rush toward war. I am telling you this story so that you will know that there are many Americans who oppose this war. There are many Americans who today are filled with shame for the actions of their government and who are praying for forgiveness in churches throughout the country. Be assured that US churches will continue to challenge this war. The churches have long advocated for a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestine conflict and an end to Israeli occupation. Without a resolution of this conflict there will be no lasting stability in the region.
We do not know how long this war will last. We cannot begin to know the consequences it will have for millions of civilians, on political alignments in the region, on international law, and on the many other urgent situations where needs will go unmet because funds are diverted to Iraq.
We do know that we must now do everything possible to bring an end to this conflict and to re-build Iraq in a manner which meets the needs of the Iraqi people - and not those of an occupying power. The churches in the USA will not have an easy time in the coming weeks and months - to stand against a war where American youth are serving. Before coming here today, I spoke with the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA who urged me to convey to you their sense of grief and horror at this war. But they also wanted me to tell you that they will continue to struggle against the war. They are strengthened by the global demonstrations against war and are with us "in spirit" in Bern today.
Let us continue to pray - and to shout and to lobby and to demonstrate - until peace prevails in Iraq and throughout the region. As Christians, we can do no less.