A wide church groups and activists with anti-war sentiment.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As world political leaders
debated the merits
of a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, a wide array of church groups and activists
raised their voices in a growing chorus of anti-war sentiment.
From the Vatican to small lay groups in the United States came
warnings that an attack on Iraq would be unjust, devastating to civilians
and counterproductive in the struggle against global terrorism.
Some of the sharpest comments came from the Vatican's secretary of
state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who said Jan. 29 that the Vatican's
opposition to a war against Iraq was based on political realism as well as
"We're asking for reflection not only on whether a war would be just
or unjust, moral or immoral, but also whether it is opportune to irritate a
billion followers of Islam," he said.
The cardinal said the world's leading countries must be sensitive to
the political repercussions of their actions.
"I told an American friend, 'Hasn't the lesson of Vietnam taught you
anything?'" he said.
In New York, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's new nuncio
to the United Nations, heard reports from the U.N. weapons inspection team
Jan. 27 and the next day outlined Vatican views in a meeting with Kofi
Annan, U.N. secretary-general.
In an interview, Archbishop Migliore said he emphasized in his talk
with Annan that the United Nations was the proper forum for a solution. He
said that while the Vatican was concerned about threats to security wherever
they exist, "we firmly believe the remedy is not war."
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's foreign minister, said
in Rome Jan. 30 that the Vatican was considering sending an envoy to
Baghdad, Iraq, to help defuse the crisis.
Pope John Paul II met with Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
Jan. 31 and expressed concern over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and the "degeneration" of efforts to find a peaceful solution to
the Iraqi situation, Hariri told reporters.
Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace, said in an interview Jan. 28 the international community,
while avoiding war, could use "robust means" against Baghdad to obtain Iraqi
compliance with U.N. resolutions.
Archbishop Martino said the Vatican was not "pacifist" and that it
recognized that global peace sometimes requires courage and strong action.
But he said any extreme action must be taken within the framework of the
He suggested that perhaps the United Nations could make Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein accept a beefed-up inspection team -- much larger
than its current 100 inspectors -- coupled possibly with a sort of
"Send something larger, not the bombs," he said.
Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York said U.N. weapons inspectors
must determine that Iraq poses "a clear and present danger" before military
action can be justified against the country.
While the inspectors' task is undeniably difficult, "it is also
essential," he said Jan. 28 during a live intercontinental Web cast
organized by the Vatican.
"The truth of the danger must be established beyond any doubt" and
"clearly set before us" before military force can be justified, the cardinal
said. Even if inspectors finally determine Iraq poses a serious threat, he
added, the international community should not "rush into conflict."
The threat of war in Iraq prompted a number of peace initiatives
from Catholic and interchurch groups around the world:
-- Pakistani Christians organized demonstrations Jan. 24 to protest
a possible U.S. war against Iraq, saying they wanted to assure Muslims that
Christians have nothing to do with U.S. plans to attack. The demonstrations
were meant to convince Muslims not to unleash a backlash against Pakistan's
Christian people if a war against Iraq is started, reported UCA News, an
Asian church news agency based in Thailand.
-- In Washington, women from a wide range of religious faiths --
Catholic and Buddhist nuns, rabbis, ministers, teachers and lay members --
launched a prayer-based peace movement Jan. 29, calling on others to join
them in working to overcome conflict. The Global Peace Initiative of Women
Religious and Spiritual Leaders gathered in Washington to pray for peace the
day after President George W. Bush used his State of the Union address to
emphasize his reasons for moving toward war with Iraq.
-- In a Jan. 27 letter to the 15-member U.N. Security Council, Pax
Christi International warned that military intervention in Iraq could
destabilize the Middle East and beyond and undermine the struggle against
terrorism. Pax Christi USA said Jan. 28 that U.N. weapons inspectors must be
given more time for inspections in Iraq.
-- The British chapter of the World Conference of Religions for
Peace said Jan. 21 that a unilateral attack on Iraq would undermine U.N.
authority and inflict immense suffering on all sides, as well as raise new
problems in interreligious relations.
-- In Germany, Catholics and Protestants launched a "chain of prayer
for peace" campaign with the theme: "Stop the War in Iraq Before It Begins."
A number of Christian aid agencies appealed for nonmilitary
solutions to the crisis, even while preparing to deal with the consequences
of an attack on Iraq.
The Rome-based Caritas Internationalis, the international
confederation of Catholic aid agencies, said in a position paper Jan. 21
that a pre-emptive attack on Iraq would be immoral, illegal and disastrous
for Iraqi civilians.
The New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association said Jan.
24 that in the event of war in Iraq it planned to set up 20 relief centers
to distribute food, clothing and medical supplies to war victims. The
program would be administered by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of
Siena, a Chaldean Catholic community based in Iraq.
Ra'ed Bahou, Jordan-Iraq regional director for CNEWA, said
facilities were being prepared near the Iraqi-Jordanian border to hold about
10,000 to 20,000 refugees.
Officials at a Catholic-run hospital in Amman said they were bracing
for an influx of Iraqi refugees if the United States declared war. Dr. Eyad
Maayan, medical director at Amman's Italian Hospital, said officials in the
region estimate the refugees could number anywhere from a few thousand to
perhaps hundreds of thousands.
A number of bishops' conferences and individual church leaders spoke
out in late January against an attack on Iraq:
-- The Philippine bishops' conference appealed Jan. 28 to their
national leaders not to support a pre-emptive strike against Iraq even if
the United Nations were to support military action. The bishops urged the
United Nations and Bush to "give time" to the U.N. inspection teams to do
-- Bishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary of the Italian bishops'
conference, said Jan. 28 that a preventive war against Iraq would be unjust,
even if the United Nations approves military intervention. He said war can
be justified only when it responds to an act of aggression.
-- Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad appealed to
world leaders to prevent a war in his country, warning of the consequences
to a civilian population that has already suffered under 12 years of
economic sanctions. He suggested that Iraq's oil reserves were the real
reason for Western moves against the country.
-- The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference called on the
United States and Britain to avoid a war on Iraq and said the fight against
terrorism could not be achieved by killing hundreds of thousands of innocent
"The great majority of peace-loving people around the world want the
problems of this world to be resolved through peaceful means, not through
war. They expect the U.S. and the West to take the lead in this regard," the
Earlier in January, statements against a war in Iraq came from
bishops of Germany, Northern Ireland, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and
- - -
Editors: This roundup includes new material and information from
IRAQ-MARTINO of Jan. 28; IRAQ-CHURCHES (UPDATED), PAKISTAN-CHRISTIANS,
IRAQ-EGAN and JORDAN-REFUGEES of Jan. 29; IRAQ-SODANO (UPDATED), IRAQ-PAX
and WOMEN-PEACE of Jan. 30; and POPE-LEBANON and MIGLIORE of Jan. 31.