Religious Leaders Speak Out on the War

From Staff and Wire Reports

With the onset of war between the United States and Iraq, numerous American religious organizations have stated positions on the fighting. What follows is a selection of statements from across the nation representing various religious and ideological positions.

D. James Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries and senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:

Along with its allies, the U.S. has at long last drawn the sword.... Christians should be in fervent prayer. Ask God to protect our troops and give victory in this just war to remove a wicked tyrant from power and to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction. Pray as well that innocent civilians will be spared, that victory will come quickly without a huge toll in human life, and that peace and true freedom will come to the Iraqi people. War is a horrible business, but this, I believe, is a just cause. If we had failed to act now, it would only invite worse consequences to come.

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Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles:

With American troops in harm's way, let us pray earnestly for a quick resolution to the present conflict in Iraq with a minimum amount of bloodshed on both sides. We pray for our military personnel and for their families. May God keep them safe from harm and bring them home to us as soon as possible. We also pray for the long-suffering Iraqi people. May God comfort them in this time of uncertainty and fear. This military intervention must be followed by serious, long-term efforts by the U.S. and other countries to create a just peace in Iraq and the region. Failure to do so may further destabilize the Middle East and fuel distrust of Western motives and intentions.

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Ismar Schorsch, chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York:

We hope that the war will end the ruthless regime of Saddam Hussein, set the stage for the formation of a more benign Iraqi government and advance the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in supporting our troops on the field of battle, I feel compelled to state that I do not back the policy of the American government that put them there. I lament the absence of a debate in Congress authorizing this war. I dispute the evidence linking Iraq to 9/11 and remain unconvinced of any imminent threat that Hussein poses to American security.... In choosing the path of an unwarranted preemptive strike, the administration has damaged long-standing bilateral relationships vital to the interests of the United States and dismantled international structures designed to transcend the ravages of two world wars. A foreign policy predicated on unilateralism is to pursue American interests narrowly conceived without constraints.... In short, the hubris of President Bush's foreign policy is fraught with undisclosed costs and unforeseen risks.

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The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles:

I join people of faith everywhere who are praying for our military personnel and their families. I daily pray for them myself, and in addition, I pray especially for the children and all innocents in Iraq. I also pray for the leaders of all nations of the world. We have an obligation to the innocent. For as [historian] Howard Zinn says, "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."

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Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention:

In Scripture, we find comfort and wisdom for troubled times. Let me share with you two points we can address as a denomination while we step into this battle. Prayer: Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age." The war we are facing is not simply a physical one. Each of us should be on our knees, praying for our nation, our president, and the military.... Fears: A terrorist's greatest tool is fear. And Satan, the ultimate terrorist, will be trying harder than ever to paralyze us with fear so we are useless as witnesses. Remember Psalm 27:1 and 3, "The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid? ... Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." When Jesus is your Savior and your home in heaven is secure, nothing on this Earth should make you tremble. Fear God and serve only him.... In many ways, this is a dark day as we face fears abroad and at home. But there has also never been a better time to share Christ and our hope in him. In a day with a lot of bad news, we have good news and a reason to give thanks. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has saved us. In him, we already have the victory.

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Council on American-Islamic Relations, Washington:

In the international arena, any attack on Iraq will almost certainly lead to the unnecessary death of Iraqi civilians and American military personnel, further destabilize an already unstable region, harm long-standing international alliances and treaties and set a dangerous precedent for unilateral intervention in the affairs of other nations. The chaos caused by a war could also provide cover for even greater Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. On the domestic front, a war and occupation will drain much-needed financial resources from our struggling economy and could fuel a backlash against innocent American Muslims, Arab Americans and those perceived to be "Middle Eastern." A conflict could also be used to justify further erosions of our civil and religious rights. No one in the American Muslim community supports the brutal dictatorship currently imposing itself on the long-suffering people of Iraq. But distaste for the Iraqi regime's murderous policies is not sufficient justification for an invasion of that country.

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Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church in America:

We pray unceasingly that the peace of God may abide everywhere on our planet Earth and that places of conflict may be transformed into places of life and freedom. We pray for the courageous men and women who serve in our armed forces and who face uncertain dangers and the threat of death.... We pray for the safety of all who peacefully inhabit areas of conflict, especially for the innocent children of our world, for their well-being, and for the realization of the beautiful potential of their lives as human beings created in the image and likeness of God. Further, we pray that the wisdom of God may abide in the hearts of the leaders of our nation as they make decisions that will undoubtedly affect millions of human beings.

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Father Canice Connors, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and Mary Ann Zollmann, B.V.M., president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious:

We are deeply saddened by the course of events that have led our nation to war with Iraq. After months of negotiations, arms inspections and diplomatic efforts, President Bush has decided to act with little support from the international community and without the sanction of the United Nations to oust Saddam Hussein from leadership in Iraq. He has also ignored the widespread voices of religious leaders around the world, including the unequivocal voice of John Paul II, who condemns the doctrine of preemption upon which the attack is based. We now live in a much less safe world than we did before the attack. This approach to self-defense could well be used to justify a much more violent world.

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The Rev. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches

The beginning of the war against Iraq ... seems to have thrown us back quite brutally into a world governed by the law of the strongest. The delicate fabric of an international legal order and the functioning of the United Nations, which was founded upon the commitment to "liberate the world from the scourge of war," seem to be undermined. The voice of millions in all corners of the world who have protested the preparation of this war scenario has gone unheard. The warning by government leaders and diplomats who have pointed to the wider dramatic consequences of war against Iraq has been pushed aside.

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