Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem expresses its revulsion at the prospect of waging war on Iraq and the probability of the death of many innocent people, and irreparable environmental damage. We would like to stress from the position of our faith in God that the peaceful attempts to avert war have not been exhausted and that such a war can only be a travesty against God the loving Creator and against our fellow human beings especially women and children who will undoubtedly be the main victims of such a war.
By stating this, we are not defending Saddam Hussain and his regime. Neither are we defending the autocratic and dictatorial rule of many states around the world that rule with an iron fist and continue to suppress their own people and inflict misery on them. But we believe that war is not the answer.
Many of us had hopes that after many centuries of wars and bloodshed, the twenty first century might usher in a new spirit and determination for human beings who now have the means and capability to find peaceful solutions to the various intractable problems of the world. Indeed, we had hoped that the leaders of the world had learned the lessons of the past, that wars aggravate conflicts rather than solve them. Therefore, we must seek other methods to address our problem than waging war. The more successful we can be in solving conflicts without resorting to war, the closer we will be to God, the God of peace who calls us to be peacemakers. We can shed the primitive concept of a god whom humans have created in their own image; a god of war who calls those people to battle who rejoice in the defeat and devastation of others.
It is amply clear that the higher and deeper concepts of God in the Bible see God as one who puts an end to war and calls people to peacemaking:
“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.” (Psalm 46:9)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be
called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The God of the Bible is one who does not rejoice in the death and destruction of sinners and evildoers but in their salvation and liberation. The God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ is one who seeks the lost sheep at great cost and brings them to the fold. God is one who does not choose to kill others but sacrifices himself on behalf of others.
When President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair who claim to be Christians appear frequently on TV and talk about going to war, they represent the primitive warrior god of certain parts of the Bible whom we totally reject and find offensive. We believe they are acting contrary to the spirit and message of the Bible. They are not being peacemakers but “warmakers” and this makes many of us Christians ashamed. We want to make it clear that we cannot follow the God of George Bush and Tony Blair. We follow the God of peace who wills peace and who makes us God’s children by virtue of loving, seeking, and pursuing peace.
From our experience of life in the Middle East, we know that the war on Iraq will not bring about peace nor reduce the risks of aggression. It will most certainly de-stabilize the whole region, if not the world, and exacerbate the dangers and threats of terrorism. In the long run, we fear, it will contribute to further wars and violence and the death of a greater number of innocent people, simply because a few war-mongering leaders “do not know what makes for peace”(Luke 19:42).
What makes for peace and security in our world today?
FIRST: People in power must learn to do justice. We reiterate the words of the prophet Micah 6:8. God expects from leaders as well as all of us “To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God”. Most of the problems in the Middle East stem from the fact that some western powers, especially the United States and Britain, have obstructed the doing of justice in Palestine. It is possible today, with no exaggeration, to curtail much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East if the United States sponsors genuine justice in Palestine. This means, once and for all, the ending of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel and the establishment of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state on the whole of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Such an act will guarantee stability and peace for the whole region and the world.
SECOND: If the United States were to take the lead and encourage other countries to follow suit by diverting most of its military budget to the pursuit of health and happiness, for all of humanity, the results would be spectacular. If a fraction of the billions of dollars that will be spent to devastate Iraq and kill and maim people could be spent on health, education, and economic development, we can eradicate many diseases and change the lot of the poor. If the United States would spend more money and energy in developing creative strategies for peacemaking as much as it creates new smart weapons of destruction, our world would be a much safer place for all.
In fact, it is a disgrace that the United States’ administration, the richest and strongest country in the world, is leading and pressuring other nations of the world to go to war rather than mobilizing them for the pursuit of peace. When the United States leads the world to think globally for the well-being of all human beings rather than nationally for its own interest, we would be on the right track for achieving peace and justice for all.
THIRD: Instead of leading countries to war and forcing the United Nations’ hand, it behooves the United States to empower the United Nations and allow it to do its job fairly and objectively. The right address for conflict resolution must not be the United States but the United Nations. The latter is the body that is entrusted with championing the pursuit of justice through peaceful means. The United States, however, due to its power and influence, can work through the UN and with other countries to be on guard to guarantee the respect and implementation of international law. Thus the United States can contribute to peace and stability in the world rather than pursue selective justice based on its national needs and interests and thus be perceived as a dishonest broker by many people in the world. As a leader of the so-called free world, the United States can by word and deed, through the United Nations, promote, enhance, and nourish human rights, democracy, environmental preservation, and respect for the dignity of every human being. It can ensure the implementation of the will of the international community. As the greatest power today it can use its influence to be the servant of peace in the world rather than to dominate and to impose its will on others and incur the resentment and bitterness of many.
We want to thank God for our friends in the United States together with millions of others around the world who have that kind of vision for their own countries. Many of them have been in great agony and distress over the policies of their own governments. We thank God for the courage of Friends of Sabeel in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Scandinavia, Australia and other countries including especially Germany and France, as well as the many people of different faiths who have been taking a strong stand against the war. They all believe in the power of peace more than in the power of war. We thank God for all people who see the futility of a war on Iraq and are working and praying for its prevention.
War must not be an option. May the Almighty, Gracious, and Loving God strengthen us all to prevent the war on Iraq.
Sisters and Brothers everywhere continue to pray and work for peace. May we be God’s instruments of peace to make “war cease to the end of the earth.”
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
February 20, 2003