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Statement on the Iraq Crisis: Enhancing Peace, Accountability and the Rule

22 February 2005


WCC Central Committee, Geneva, 15-22 February, 2005



The crisis in Iraq persists at the expense of the Iraqi people and with long-term
complications for the international community. The World Council of Churches
(WCC) Central Committee, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, February 15 to 22,
2005, issues this statement mindful of the consequences of this crisis and remembering
especially women, children and men who have lost their lives to war and
conflict in Iraq, the uncounted dead, the many who are injured, sick and traumatized
by violence, and the millions bereaved or in fear. We note that this war is
only the latest of eight wars in Iraq since World War I, a violent century, when
foreign entities and local elites monopolized the region's petroleum while generally
neglecting the good of its people.

The fate of Iraq's poorest and most vulnerable citizens especially concerns us -
one fifth of the nation, some five million people, whose deprivation endures from
the previous regime to the present. Their infant mortality rates, income levels
and access to clean water, sanitation and health-care suffice to keep a nation with
the second largest petroleum reserves in the world, and more pledges of aid than
all Africa, on the list of countries that suffer the most extreme forms of poverty.

We recognize Iraq's Christian communities for their unique role in Iraqi society
today, for their time-honoured witness to the gospel and for their commitment
to live in harmony with their neighbours. We declare that the current conflict is
not a religious conflict and that leaders of the parties involved have a responsibility
not to misuse religion to further fuel the conflict.

In the birthplace of Abraham, we look to his children - Jews, Christians, Muslims
- to become agents of the healing and reconciliation that Iraq so sorely needs and
that faith so clearly requires.

We see a ray of hope for the future in the millions of citizens who went to the polls
last month, even though others did not participate including some Christian communities
that were prevented from voting. The embrace of a democratic process
is a vote for a new Iraq, one freed both from dictatorship and from occupation.

Most news has not been positive, however. At this point in the crisis we are obliged
to note that positions we took three years ago are, regrettably, still relevant, including:

Our calls for sustained diplomacy on peaceful solutions, our rejection of preemptive
military action and our affirmation of the international rule of law
(WCC Central Committee Statement, 9/02);

Our appeal to uphold the UN Charter's limits on the use of force, our denunciation
of human rights violations in Iraq and, on the eve of war, our strong
affirmations of church actions world-wide for peace (WCC Executive Committee
Statement, 2/03); and, five months after the pre-emptive strike on Iraq,
Our dismay at the UN Security Council for yielding to pressure to legitimize
the occupation and undermining its mandate as the arbiter of international
security, our condemnation of atrocities under Saddam Hussein, our defence
of Iraq's territorial integrity, our support for unimpeded and impartial humanitarian
work there, our concern at polarization over the war within the US,
our warning against the establishment of foreign military bases in Iraq, our
call for war reparations to the Iraqi people, and our affirmation of the role of
Iraq's churches in rebuilding civil society together with other religious communities
in Iraq (WCC Central Committee Statement, 9/03).

We firmly reject assertions of the so-called "global war on terror" as justification
for the war on Iraq. To employ again now the same indiscriminate language against
other countries in the region is both irresponsible and dangerous. Leaders who
used the false pretexts of terrorist connections and weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq to bolster their case for war will be judged by history. Time will also bring
acknowledgements of the actual loss of life in Iraq and record how democracies
respond appropriately to acts of terrorism.

The WCC Central Committee appreciates the principled and important opposition
to the war on Iraq among church leaders and members around the world, yet
is alarmed that churches, communities and individuals who have much to offer
in constructive dissent should be silenced because patriotism runs high in their
government, media, election campaigns, and even local parishes.

We are deeply concerned at violence that targets innocent civilians in order to
kill people by category - in suicide bombings at community gatherings, in summary
executions of new job applicants, by the bombing of churches and mosques,
and in the taking and murdering of hostages.

We condemn unequivocally the torture and humiliation of prisoners in Iraq and
deplore the relegation of punishment for these crimes to low-ranking soldiers,
despite ample evidence of decisions at high levels of the US administration to
bypass obligations under international law.

The overarching violence in Iraq arises from the disproportionate use of force by
coalition armies, causing up to 100,000 civilian deaths and destroying whole
towns and neighbourhoods purportedly to save them. We note that such strategies
of occupation and subjugation engender further violence, work to excuse
adversaries from their own barbarities, inflame public opinion across the region,
and lower the political threshold for state-sponsored violence in conflicts around
the world.

The human costs of war and conflict weigh heavily on women in Iraq. The breakdown
in public safety, the collapse of health care and sanitation, and the denial
of basic rights, trap women and girls now and will hold them back from shaping
their nation's future.

Financing this war and occupation in Iraq has been and continues to be an unconscionable
misallocation of the world's wealth. The 200 billion dollars already allocated
by the US administration for use in Iraq would, for example, provide safe
drinking water to every child in need in the world for a decade and a half, thereby
saving 25 million lives. As for existing obligations, the amount spent to date
would pay US dues to the United Nations for the next 400 years.

This one episode reflects the global imbalance between national security concerns
and human security needs, and demonstrates a failure of accountability in the
international community.

The WCC Central Committee therefore calls governments and intergovernmental
bodies to greater accountability under the rule of international law both for
the cause of peace in Iraq and for more effective management of such crises in
future. We request member churches and WCC-related organizations to engage
their governments in this call as well, encouraging action in the following areas:

Take steps in the appropriate international forums to open debate of a timetable
for the reduction and termination of the US-led Coalition's military presence in
Iraq and for the removal of its military bases there;

Monitor each Iraqi election of 2005 so that these exercises of popular will under
de facto occupation are used to further the prospects of genuine self-rule and are
not used to prolong the authority of non-elected or foreign entities;

Prepare for the progressive transfer, under the auspices of the United Nations
Security Council, of governance and resource management in Iraq to broad-based,
national institutions where contending groups can learn to negotiate over power
and policy;

Prepare similarly for the transfer of Iraq's security affairs to a joint Iraqi-UN
peacemaking force;

Constitute a United Nations mechanism to oversee the post-war reconstruction
of Iraq on terms that refocus international aid and Iraqi resources around the basic
rights and well-being of the Iraqi people, give guidance in matters of war damage
compensation, ensure the maximum feasible participation of Iraqis in reconstruction
and development projects while greatly reducing the role of foreign contractors,
and guarantee public accountability for such projects;

Reconfirm that the war on Iraq was illegal under the United Nations Charter and
international law and address the need to consolidate international political con-
sensus on the legal grounds for military action and on legitimate responses to
threats;

Assist and enable independent, credible and accurate third-party verification of
casualty levels on all sides during this conflict - assigning responsibility for the
deaths, illnesses, traumas and injuries caused directly and indirectly by the disproportionate
use of force, by unexploded ordnance, and by the use of depleted
uranium;

Prevail upon the US administration to revert from its current violations of international
law on the arrest, detention, treatment and legal representation of prisoners
and by closing all extra-territorial, extra-legal prisons involved;

Advocate for human rights in Iraq and for adherence to international humanitarian
law - especially the Fourth Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols
- by the occupation authorities, the interim government, and subsequent governments
in Iraq.

The WCC Central Committee also calls member churches and WCC-related
organizations to engage in local and international actions to heal wounds inflicted
during the crisis:

Assist Christian citizens to stay in Iraq by speaking out on their behalf and on
behalf of all who suffer violence, killings, attacks and kidnappings there; providing
help to churches and agencies in neighbouring countries that have welcomed
tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians forced to flee; and praying and working for
their safe return;

Strive, as churches, to heal divisions between Christians and Muslims around the
world that have developed before, during and after this war, and call governments
to join with churches, schools, foundations and media in the lengthy process of
reconciling such divisions;

Support the continuing efforts of Christians to work with Muslims and people
of other faiths in discerning common goals for Iraq and the Middle East, and in
choosing courses of action that will lead towards those goals;

Call churches around the world to pray for peace in Iraq, stand in solidarity with
churches that question this war and, confessing the need for broader dialogue, listen
to and engage with the many Christians who do not share our stance against
the war.

We commend these actions to member churches and governments for the good
of the people of Iraq and for the cause of peace in the Middle East.