ELCA Presiding Bishop's Statement on Iraq Situation

8/30/2002 12:00:00 AM


In recent days, leaders of the United States government have talked
openly about the possibility of a pre-emptive strike against the
government of Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein.

As presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA), I am deeply concerned about any such action.  In the 1995
ELCA social statement, "For Peace in God's World," we said that, as
Christians, "the love of our neighbor obligates us to act to prevent
wars and seek alternatives to them."  This is a time to stop the use
of hostile rhetoric and verbal threats, and to focus again on

While we are fully aware of the potential threat posed by the
government of Iraq and its leader, I believe it is wrong for the
United States to seek to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein with
military action. Morally, I oppose it because I know a war with Iraq
will have great consequences for the people of Iraq, who have already
suffered through years of war and economic sanctions. I do not
believe such a war can be justified under the historic principles of
"just war." Further, I believe it is detrimental to U.S. interests to
take unilateral military action against Iraq when there is already
strong international support for weapons inspections, and when it is
apparent that most other world governments oppose military action. I
also believe that U.S. military action at this time will further
destabilize the region.

The United States should continue its cooperation with international
efforts through the United Nations to control Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction.  The ELCA has consistently called for diplomatic efforts
toward a cease-fire and a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
I would encourage the U.S. government to formulate its response to
Iraq toward a similar end.

As the attention of this nation increasingly focuses on the
anniversary of Sept. 11, we are reminded of the devastating impact of
war.  So, we continue to reject violent action and are renewed in our
resolve to find peaceful, nonviolent solutions.  I call upon members
of our congregations to be fervent in prayer, engaged in conversation
with one another and with our leaders. The ELCA encourages the
participation by all people of faith in the affairs of government.
Our church has developed and is expanding a practice of engaging in
moral deliberation on difficult social issues.  Now is a time for
such deliberation.  During these discussions it is important for all
of us to listen to and respect the views of everyone. We must oppose
racist and enemy images that dehumanize, deny the love of God for all
people and do not help in resolving conflict.

In the final analysis, we must stand unequivocally for peace. We
extend our prayers for peace to all who must decide and to all who are
affected, here, in the Persian Gulf region and around the world. We
remember our President  and his administration, members of Congress,
military personnel and their families, and all who may be affected
during this critical time in global history.

As people of faith, we are reminded of these words: "Let us then
pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." (Romans

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG


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