World Council of Churches

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

Statement on the War in Iraq

20 March 2003

by the WCC General Secretary
20 March, 2003



With profound sorrow I recognize that the United States, the United Kingdom
and Spain, three members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, have
gone to war against Iraq. They have done so without the consent of the UN Security
Council, ignoring the voice of civil society, of the churches and of other faith communities
in those countries and worldwide. I condemn this rush to unilateral military
attack. Non-violent means to solve the conflict have been far from exhausted.
Disarmament of Iraq could have been achieved without a war.

The pre-emptive military attack against Iraq is immoral, illegal and ill-advised.
The WCC and its member churches repeatedly warned these powers that this war
will have grave humanitarian consequences, including loss of civilian life, largescale
displacement of people, environmental destruction and further destabilization
of the whole region.

The implicit unilateralism, by the US, the UK and Spain, contradicts the spirit,
ideal and prospect of multilateralism, the fundamental principles laid out in the
UN Charter, and may damage hopes to create a strong international order in the
post-Cold War period. By relying on the right of the powerful, including the use
of threat and economic pressure, to influence other states to support their action,
these countries undermine the international rule of law that has taken half a century
to construct.

The failure, however, does not lie with the UN, but with those governments that
chose to go outside of the Security Council. The international community must
clearly demonstrate, and remind those countries, that the UN Charter and multilateral
responsibility are expressions of a civilized, progressive and peaceful international
order and that the only sustainable response to terrorism is to achieve
rule of law, within the rule of law.

The fact that the sole superpower, together with old colonial powers of Europe,
chose to go alone against a country with a Muslim majority is politically dangerous,
culturally unwise and ignores the growing importance of religion and culture
for the political identification of many people. We fear that this war will
only confirm and aggravate stereotypes and, in many parts of the world, add to
an image of the West marked by colonialism and crusades.

The military attack on Iraq comes at a point when the UN weapons inspections
were working and the prospects for disarmament of Iraq with non-military means
was growing considerably. I, therefore, deplore that the opportunity for disarmament,
mandated by the UNSC Resolution 1441, has been lost with this unilateral
military attack. The UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors were allowed into the
country because the UN resolution could invoke military action. However, by
putting themselves in a position from which war became inevitable, the US, the
UK and Spain failed to exercise the basic responsibility that follows with the commission
of trust to serve on the UN Security Council.

• I strongly appeal to the Governments of the US, the UK and their supporters,
to immediately cease all military activity in Iraq and return the full responsibility
of the disarmament of Iraq to the UN Security Council.

• I urge all governments to oppose this unilateral action and work for a ceasefire.

• I call on all parties to the conflict, including Iraq, to abide by human rights
obligation under international humanitarian law.

• I ask our member churches to come together to seek God's guidance and to
continue theological reflections on the will of God for the world.

The response from churches against the war in Iraq has been an unprecedented
manifestation of unanimity. The energy that has been released bears witness to a
spirituality that calls for peaceful coexistence of all nations and peoples in accordance
with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. That energy must not be
lost. Churches should continue their united efforts to stop the war, to give assistance
to those in need and to cooperate with people of other faiths, especially
Muslims, to restore confidence and trust amongst the nations of the world.

As followers of Jesus Christ, when faced with death and destruction, we are reminded
of his words: "I have come that you may have life and that you may have it in
abundance". When violence is unleashed, fear for life and peace increase, but God
does not forget his people.

Though the mountains move and the hills shake,
My love shall be immovable and never fail,
And my covenant of peace shall not be shaken.
So says the Lord who takes pity on you.
(Isaiah 54:10)

At this time of repentance, the World Council of Churches prays for all the people
who will suffer in this war, as well as the soldiers and their families. Although
this is a day when diplomacy was rejected by some, our call for peace remains.

Any war comes at a high price of death of soldiers and civilians, destruction of
property and the environment, as well as division of people, governments and
cultures. This war is no exception.

Wars cannot be won, only peace can.

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser
General Secretary