“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” —Luke 1:78-79 (NRSV)
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This season of Lent, we are truly living “in darkness and in the shadow of death” as we mark, on March 19, 2008, the fifth anniversary of the war with Iraq. It is a war that is being waged by our country, financed by our taxes, and fought by our sisters and brothers. As U.S. Christians, we issue a call to the American church to lament and repent of the sin of this war.
We lament the suffering and violence in Iraq. We mourn the nearly 4,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died, the unknown numbers of both who are wounded in body and mind, and the more than 4 million Iraqis who are displaced from their homes. With the families of U.S. soldiers torn apart, our families are also torn apart.
We lament the effects of this war on our country. The war has undermined our religious and national values. International perceptions of the U.S. church’s support for the war have hurt the cause of Christ. The abuse of prisoners and use of torture have damaged the U.S.’s moral standing in the world. The war is squandering billions of dollars that are urgently needed for other domestic and international needs.
We repent of our failure to fully live the teaching of Jesus to be peacemakers. Some of us believe our faith leads to a rejection of war, while others affirm just war principles—but after five years of conflict, we are convinced that continuing occupation and war in Iraq cannot be reconciled with just war teaching, and it is the obligation of Christians to help bring unjust wars to an end. The U.S. occupation must end; a transition to an international solution to Iraq must be found. A peaceful resolution is possible and must be pursued. Our country should end this war, not try to “win” it, and we must help the Iraqi people build a safer and more peaceful country.
We believe repentance means more than just being sorry. Repentance requires a change of heart and a commitment to a new direction. Repentance means transformation—breaking out of our conformity to a foreign policy based on fear and war to a policy that is rooted in seeking justice and pursuing peace. There is a better way—and the U.S. church must take the lead.
We dedicate ourselves to the biblical vision of a world in which nations do not attempt to resolve international problems by waging war on other nations . We believe the followers of the Prince of Peace should be the hardest ones, not the easiest, to convince to go to war. We are not utopians—we acknowledge that human beings and nations will have conflicts. But given the toll that the habit of war has taken in our violence-torn world, we must begin to learn to resolve our inevitable conflicts by learning the arts and skills of conflict resolution and a new international approach to just peace-making and law enforcement. We must seek a world in which we allow our Lord “ to guide our feet into the path of peace."
As a sign of repentance and commitment to lead our nation toward a new path, I pledge to:
● Pray for our nation to learn lasting lessons from th e tragedy of the war in Iraq and commit to greater wisdom in the future.
● Help heal our nation by talking and listening to our fellow Christians, finding better ways to resolve conflicts—by seeking the reconciliation of our divisions and working together for a more peaceful world.
● Reach out to the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who often, after making terrible sacrifices, feel abandoned.
● Urge our elected representatives to:
● pursue a foreign policy consistent with moral principles, wise political judgments, and international law
● ensure that veterans and their families are provided with the medical, psychological, financial, and spiritual support they need
● fulfill our responsibility, working with the international community, to stabilize and rebuild Iraq, provide humanitarian support, and resettle those displaced by war.
Repentance requires a change of direction and a new commitment to follow Jesus, who tells us very clearly, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
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