A Letter To Women's Organizations Worldwide
from the Justice for Women Working Group
of the National Council of Churches in Christ, USA
February 14, 2003
With this letter come our thanks for your prayers, support and witness for peace. You were with us in our sorrow after September 11 and you are with us now in this anxious and fear-filled time. In the face of widespread global opposition and a deeply divided U.S. public, our federal government appears determined to wage a full scale war.
We would like to assure you that we have heard the call of the Swedish Women's Ecumenical Council, (among others) for women to say "No To War." Many are already doing just that. In thousands of unreported and unsung ways-women are trying to generate the "awareness, compassion and courage needed to create and sustain the well being of the human family." You do not know their names but they are in the struggle for a world at peace through peaceful means. A short list of examples follows.
* As we met in New York earlier this week, a tireless national advocate for children was gathering women in Washington, DC to remind our political leaders that war robs children of their childhoods-if not their lives-not only in Iraq but also here at home. Our proposed federal budget indicts us a nation. Our distorted national priorities will swell the populations of the hungry, homeless and futureless and diminish our capacity to school our children and protect our environment. Women seeking peace know, moreover, what havoc years of sanctions have already wrought for Iraqi children. To such suffering and flagrant injustice, women say "No." You do not know their names, but they are not passive.
*Meeting on February 11, 2003, just 17 months after the 9-11 tragedy in this city, our working group was mindful of the ways our world has been changed. We were grateful for the families of the survivors who found each other-not to seek vengeance or even comfort, but hope and peace. They came to honor the lives of loved ones by creating Peaceful Tomorrows. In this organization, neither the wives and mothers, nor the husbands and fathers-nor the children and friends, for that matter-of those who died are about vengeance. You do not know their names but they are not seeking retribution.
* In the rural and more conservative communities of our country, women for peace risk the hostility of neighbors, friends and family. Whether it is a button with the words "Peace is Patriotic" or a statement opposing war by a national church women's organization, such public expressions of convictions often provoke anger and contempt. Women seeking peace by peaceful means are accepting scorn and strife as a price for their dissent. "Not in my name will the United States launch a pre-emptive strike" is their message. You do not know their names, but they are not silent.
* Banding together in Minneapolis in the northern heartland, women with spunk created the organization "Code Pink." Both a warning to the public of these dangerous times and a vivid invitation to sustain peaceful efforts to avert war, these hot pink clad women appear at shopping malls and on street corners, in demonstrations and in the media. Their banners and umbrellas are unmistakable; their bright color threatens our capacity for denial. You do not know their names, but they are not invisible.
* Taking their cues from Women in Black, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, and others who assemble for peace and human rights at the sites of power, small clumps of women, often shivering in these wintry months, have been gathering daily outside the White House for peace. What began in November, 2002 will culminate in a large gathering on March 8, International Women's Day. No one interviews these women for their perspectives or sends their photos around the world. Few even see them as important, but they persist. You do not know their names, but they are not defeated.
* In church school classrooms for three-year-olds through seniors, women (largely) are teaching members how to listen, speak with conviction, avoid harsh accusations, experience God, and make friends with those who differ from themselves. Peacemaking programs generate bible studies and background papers as well as Internet websites brimming with information. Peace fellowships--always miniscule minorities within U.S. churches, play their usual roles as catalysts and coalition builders with secular, ecumenical, and interfaith groups. You do not know their names, but they are not simply praying.
* Working tirelessly together with men, women are voting with their bodies in huge demonstrations across the country. Images of gatherings in WDC, San Francisco and New York (including the huge United for Peace demonstration February 15, planned in concert with similar worldwide protests in over 600 cities) are carried, we know, in the international press. But did you know that over 200 cities in this country have had sizeable marches as well? Thousands have congregated in sunshine and in rain in such cities as Seattle, Atlanta, Duluth, Boston, Chicago and San Antonio to say: "War is not the answer." And not to be outdone by citizen initiatives, city councils from coast to coast have passed resolutions opposing the war. You do not know their names, but they are not sitting down.
* Whether trailing their children with signs such as "Fifth Graders for Nonviolence," and "Hear my Heart, President Bush, Give us Peace" or taking young people to such countries as Columbia or Bosnia to enlarge their worlds, women are transmitting values that make for peace. They have a long range vision that counters the obsession of nation states to place self interest, the GNP and national security at the top of their agendas. They know that teaching the young to be feisty, fair, open and compassionate is the best way to fashion a world in which everyone sleeps nourished and unafraid. You do not know their names, but they are not without big dreams.
* In Move On, a heroic Internet effort to challenge members of Congress and the Bush Administration, women in partnership with men have flooded the federal government with tens of thousands of letters, faxes, phone calls and visits. They have called into question every form of belligerent action from troop buildups to threatening rhetoric. They have supported weapons inspections and insisted on the counsel of allies and the United Nations in any talk about war. They have changed minds and emboldened political leaders afraid of being seen as weak or unpatriotic. And they continue to do so. You do not know their names, but they have not given up on democratic institutions.
* Believing that the heads of European churches and governments would be receptive to their pleas, an ecumenical delegation of women and men from the United States made an unprecedented journey in the first week of February this year. They went as petitioners and truth tellers. They told their European hosts that millions of American Christians oppose a war on Iraq and that our country is far more divided and ambivalent than it appears. Despite President Bush's affiliation with a Christian church, the leaders of his denomination and all the other leaders of the 33 member denominations of the National Council of Churches opposed the war as well. You do not know their names but they are trying to be faithful to their calling to be peacemakers.
In the fall of this year, we in the Justice for Women Working Group of the NCCC issued the one page statement that follows this letter. It guides us still. Please be assured that we will not be passive, vengeful, silent, invisible, or defeated. Whatever may happen in the weeks to come, we will not be sitting down or surrendering our dreams. Or giving in to fear. Instead, we shall try to be instruments of God's peace, to love one another as God loves us. All of us.
You do not know our names but we shall continue to oppose this war and war itself as a means of settling conflicts. We shall continue to find ways to make nonviolence the way to peace. We shall continue to minister to those who will suffer if war breaks out and to be about the repairing of our society and those ripped apart by war. You do not know our names but we ask for your continued prayers. Your steadfast witness for life gives us hope and for this, we are thankful.
Potential War on Iraq: A Threat to Women and Children
A Call to Action by the Justice for Women Working Group
of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
"When the armies march, there is no harvest" (Ethiopian proverb)War is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. The first duty of nations is to seek ways to resolve disputes by peaceful means. Women and children are the ultimate victims of any war. For centuries, women have been abducted and raped as spoils of war. Battles are waged on their bodies and in their communities. Children, when they survive at all, are often pressed into military service. In Iraq, women and children have already suffered disproportionately from the long economic sanctions. The infant and child mortality rate in Iraq is among the highest in the world (higher, for instance, than either Haiti or Sudan; 130 Iraqi children out of every 1000 die before age 5, compared with 8 deaths out of 1000 by children in the U.S.). Innocent civilians suffer more than anyone else in virtually every war; war against Iraq would inevitably result in a particularly dramatic demonstration of this truth.
We are equally concerned about the future of our own children, particularly those who would be called upon to fight in a war on Iraq. Presidents and legislators may declare war, but it is children who die in them.
Therefore, we declare our opposition to U.S. military action against Iraq. We reject the use of war as an instrument of foreign policy. We declare our resistance to the pre-emptive use of military force to deal with serious international threats, knowing the catastrophic death toll and global retaliation such an act would unleash.
We call upon women of faith to raise their voices on behalf of those who have little voice and no power: the women and the children of Iraq. We call upon President Bush to set an example for the international community by seeking alternatives to war in Iraq and the Middle East. We expect our government to pursue peace, to respect international laws and treaties and to work with the world community to resolve continuing threats to peace and order. Above all, we re-commit ourselves to the values of Jesus Christ, friend of women, protector of children and Prince of Peace.
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