Statement on War With Iraq
by Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI
As the drumbeat of war against Iraq rings loudly in our ears, the gentle but challenging message of the Risen Christ pierces our hearts and souls: "Peace be with you." [John 20:19] As leaders of our country prepare for war with Iraq, followers of Christ should intensify their prayers and efforts for peace. Peace is a gift from God and God's children need to humbly ask for this gift and to open their hearts and hands to receive it. The prophetic vision of peace appeals to the conscience of all those who, in these decisive days, can influence the future of peace, because, in the end, it is conscience that will have the last word, stronger than all strategies and all ideologies.
We should have no illusions about the behavior or intentions of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its neighbors, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and destroy all such existing weapons.
People of good will may differ on how to apply just war norms in particular cases, especially when events are moving rapidly and the facts are not all together clear. It is difficult to justify our country's resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature. With other Christian leaders, I believe that the resort to war, under present circumstances and in light of current public information, would not meet the strict Christian conditions for overriding the strong presumption against military force. Pope John Paul II has stated, "War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity….war is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations."
Every alternative to war must be explored. The United States, in collaboration with the international community, should continue to pursue actively alternatives to war in Iraq. It is vital that our nation persist in the very frustrating and difficult challenges of maintaining broad international support for constructive, effective and legitimate ways to contain and deter aggressive Iraqi actions and threats. In addition to the U.N. inspections, the military embargo could be enforced more effectively while political sanctions and much more carefully-focused economic sanctions which do not threaten the lives of innocent Iraqi people should be maintained. Addressing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction must be matched by broader and stronger non-proliferation measures that are grounded in the principle of mutual constraint.
At the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus is to live according to his beatitudes. One of his beatitudinal standards is: "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God." [Mt.5:9] As the calamity of war with Iraq looms on the horizon, I urgently invite the people of all of our churches to continue to discern how best to live out our vocation to be witnesses and agents of peace and justice. As we continue to dialogue, reflect, and advocate at this critical time, I urge all of our communities to pray and to join together in ecumenical prayer services for peace with other Christians leaders, and if possible, with Muslims and Jews.
We must also pray for all those most likely to be affected by a war, the long-suffering people of Iraq, and especially for the children of that land of the prophets. We pray too for the men and women in our armed forces who are being deployed and putting their lives on the front line of freedom. We pray for our President and other world leaders that they may find the wisdom, will and way to step back from the brink of war, and work for peace that is just and enduring. Each day beseech the Prince of Peace to show us the way to the path of peace during these critical and troubling times. "Peace be with you."
For further information contact:
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