[Last update: 1 October 2002]

Austin-area Clergy Oppose War in Iraq

by Austin-area Christian clergy

For many reasons, we oppose a war with Iraq

University-area Christian clergy

SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

We, the undersigned Christian clergy, add our voices to the growing number of religious leaders from the United States and other nations who oppose a pre-emptive United States attack on Iraq. We urge President Bush and Congress to pursue alternative nonviolent and multilateral measures that seek to pressure Iraq into accordance with United Nations resolutions to accept weapons inspectors and to destroy weapons of mass destruction should inspectors discover them.

As Christian clergy, we are committed to truthful dialogue and productive work that promotes human dignity, justice and peace. Saddam Hussein has clearly violated human rights, and he is responsible for much suffering and death. We understand that negotiating with Saddam Hussein is extremely difficult because of his habitual obfuscation and distortion of the truth. We are not nave, but we believe an act of war can only be justified as a last resort, once all other alternatives have been thoroughly exhausted. We believe alternatives to a preemptive war against Iraq still exist, and we urge our government to pursue them in cooperation with other nations in the world.

The United States claims to possess evidence that Saddam Hussein is an imminent threat to United States security. However, apart from alarming rhetoric and disturbing accusations, the public has not been offered convincing proof that Saddam Hussein currently possesses weapons of mass destruction and that he is capable of using them.

We are deeply troubled by the inability or unwillingness to provide hard evidence, and we believe the combination of rhetoric, accusation and secrecy is undermining the democratic process in our own nation. Without clear evidence, as citizens we cannot responsibly decide whether war is absolutely necessary at this time. We oppose going to war without an informed public debate based on evidence.

We also oppose a United States attack on Iraq because of the human suffering and death this act will inflict upon innocent Iraqi civilians and combatants on both sides. The Iraqi people have suffered enough. Our government has not proven to our satisfaction that our nation's relationship with Iraq has reached a crisis point that justifies the additional human suffering a war will produce.

We oppose a military action against Iraq because we believe it could further destabilize the entire Middle East region, produce suffering and death beyond Iraq's borders, and create further enmity and hostility toward the United States around the world. We believe this country should work in a cooperative manner with the other nations in pursuit of human rights -- economic, political and social.

Currently, international issues dominate our attention. We urge the government, however, to focus also on our crucial domestic issues such as poverty, hunger, education, housing, affordable child care, livable wages and the environment. It will do us no good to try to make the world right, and fail our own people.

We ask the government to pursue a domestic agenda with the same vigor and passion we evidence in our policy toward Iraq. The greatness of our nation will be judged by how well we care for our most vulnerable members.

We will continue to pray for our people and the people of all nations. May our hopes for peace be realized.

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This column was co-authored by Larry Bethune, University Baptist Church; Harold Guess, University Christian Church, Disciples of Christ; Patrick Johnson, St. Austin's Catholic Parish; Bob Karli, First English Lutheran Church; J. Charles Merrill, University United Methodist Church; Tom VandeStadt, Congregational Church, United Church of Christ; and San Williams, University Presbyterian Church.


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