World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Statement Against Military Action in Iraq

21 February 2003

WCC Executive Committee, Geneva, 18-21 February, 2003

We believe God made us and all creation. God requires us to seek peace and justice. We believe that with God's grace no work of faith, hope and love is too hard for those who trust God. Therefore, as followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, led by His Spirit, we call upon the leaders of the world and all people of faith:

STOP the threats of war against Iraq!

The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, 18-21 February 2003, remains extremely concerned with the continued calls for military action against Iraq by the US and some western governments and strongly deplores the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy.

At the same time, the Executive Committee is equally concerned with the Iraqi violation of fundamental human rights and urges the government of Iraq to comply with international human rights norms and standards and with binding UN Security Council resolutions.

The Executive Committee welcomes the united and consistent message of heads of churches of every Christian tradition around the world against this war. The committee is extremely encouraged that churches are not only taking a leading position in preventing this war, but also preparing to avert a humanitarian catastrophe at the same time through preparedness to respond to the needs of innocent civilians in Iraq.

The Executive Committee affirms the courageous stance of church leaders for peaceful solutions, especially in countries like the USA and the UK in direct opposition to the positions taken by their political leadership.

The Executive Committee welcomes and appreciates the efforts of all church leaders and ecumenical organisations to mobilise public opinion to prevent war in Iraq and to pursue peace. It endorses wholeheartedly the statement adopted by church leaders at a meeting convened by the WCC, in Berlin, Germany, on 5th February 2003, to discuss a common response to the threat of military action against Iraq and expresses its appreciation to the Protestant Church in Germany for hosting the event and arranging a hearing with Germany's Head of Government. It further recognises the recent meetings of US church leaders with government leaders in the UK and France.

Bearing in mind the reality that the 1991 Gulf War did not bring peace to the Iraqi people, but severe suffering under 12 years of economic sanctions; noting the recent developments relating to possible military action in Iraq and the report presented by the United Nations Weapons Inspectors to the UN Security Council on the 14th February; and the mounting public opinion against a war in Iraq evidenced by the turnout of millions of people all over the world who gathered in peace rallies; and

Taking into account that action of the WCC and churches must:

  • be guided by the moral obligation to ensure sanctity of life and the ethical conviction that war is not an acceptable way to resolve conflicts,
  • follow the need to promote public and international support for the UN as custodian of lawful action regarding Iraq,
  • understand that the carefully designed mechanism of the UN weapons inspections is a long term tool and that 20 years of inspections are more effective, less costly and more relevant than 20 days of war,
  • recognise the necessity not only to disarm Iraq, but also make the whole Middle East region free from weapons of mass destruction,
  • acknowledge the negative impact on Christian-Muslim relations and increased emigration of Christians from the region where Christianity was born,
  • highlight the need for a durable and just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflicts, and an end of the illegal occupation of Palestine,
  • promote democratisation and compliance with global human rights norms and standards in all Arab countries as well as in Israel.

Recalling the "statement on the threats of military actions against Iraq" by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches meeting in Geneva 26 August to 3 September 2002; and

Reaffirming that the war against Iraq would be immoral, unwise and in breach of the principles of the UN Charter, the Executive Committee:

  • warns that war in Iraq will cause a humanitarian crisis of grave magnitude with untold human suffering, especially for the children of Iraq, loss of life, property, environmental destruction and waste of precious resources; it will reinforce and polarise division and hatred between communities resulting in further destabilisation of the region;
  • strongly appeals to the UN Security Council to uphold the principles of the UN Charter which strictly limit the legitimate use of military force and to refrain from creating negative precedents and lowering the threshold for using violent means to solve international conflicts;
  • further appeals to the political leaders of the US and the UK to refrain from a unilateral pre-emptive military action against Iraq;
  • calls insistently on the member nations of the UN Security Council to adequately reinforce and allow reasonable time to UN weapons inspectors to successfully fulfil their mandate to disarm and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;
  • strongly urges the government of Iraq to fully cooperate with UN weapons inspectors to ensure that weapons of mass destruction, related research and production facilities are completely destroyed;
  • condemns the Iraqi government's violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Iraq and urges its leadership to guarantee full respect of the civil and political, economic, social and cultural human rights, including religious rights, of all its citizens;
  • encourages the churches to continue to challenge and expose any national security policies that promote pre-emptive military strikes as legitimate self-defence undermining the principles and the spirit of the UN Charter;
  • calls on all churches to intensify further their engagement in efforts for peace; and in turn commends the February 5th Berlin Statement to churches calling them to join this act of witness for a peaceful resolution of this conflict;
  • invites faithful men, women and children everywhere to engage in earnest prayers that leaders of the nations may be directed along the path to seek peaceful resolution of the conflict in Iraq.
  • proposes the first day of Lent 2003, a day for reflection and conversion, to be a day of prayer for peace in Iraq in all member churches and worldwide.