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As servants of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), as citizens of the United States, and as members of the human family, we speak today to express our profound grief and sorrow over our government’s decision to go to war against Iraq. This is a choice we know will have enormous and tragic consequences – many as yet unimagined – for the Iraqi people, for our own nation, and for the world. It is a choice we believe was unnecessary, immoral and unwise, especially since it was taken before all the nonviolent and diplomatic alternatives were exhausted; indeed, before some were even explored.
The God we worship is a God of love (I John: 4). This Divine Spirit will always guide us into “paths of righteousness” – into lives of caring for, service to, and reconciliation with our fellow human beings – if only we will open ourselves to Divine direction and follow where that leads. This God tells “what is good, and that is to do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). The living Christ, our Teacher, tells us “to love our enemies” (Mt. 6:44). We wonder where the justice, the mercy, or the love is to be found in our government’s decision to launch this preemptive attack, and begin a war where so many people will die.
We are deeply saddened by the pain and suffering, the destruction and loss of life, and the grief that this war will bring to the Iraqi people. We are deeply saddened as well by the pain and suffering, the loss of life, and the grief that will be experienced by our soldiers, their families, and the many, many others who will be victims of this war. All these people – Iraqis, American, British and others – are children of God. We pray for God’s mercy on us all.
If this war goes swiftly, and the military objectives of our government are achieved, some will call it a success. But that can never be true. This war, like every war, represents a profound failure. It shows the failure of individuals and governments to address conditions of poverty, injustice, and oppression that lead to war. It shows our failure as human beings to overcome our own fears and greed, which we are told in Scripture are the root causes of war and strife (James 4:1-2). It shows a failure of will and creativity among those in our own government and others to seek alternatives to military force to resolve our conflicts. Finally, it represents a tragic failure to work through and respect the United Nations as the keystone of an evolving international system of law and diplomacy that can respond to international crises and avert war.
On this day, in our sorrow and our hope for a better future, we recommit ourselves to work with all people of faith and goodwill to bring this conflict to an end, and to do whatever can be done to avoid more wars. We believe, as President Carter observed in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, that “war is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.” And we pray fervently for that time the prophet Isaiah predicted, when we “shall beat our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks; and nation will not lift up sword against nation, and we shall not learn war anymore” (Is. 2:4).
Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Bruce Birchard, General Secretary, Friends General Conference
Ben Richmond, Director of North American Ministries, Friends United Meeting
Steve Baumgartner, Executive Director, Pendle Hill
Thomas Jeavons, General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
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