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Bishops call for U.N. role in Iraq, decry violence

5/11/2004 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

By United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Church's bishops are urging the U.S. government to request help from the United Nations in establishing a transitional government in Iraq.

In a May 11 resolution, the Council of Bishops said it "laments the continued warfare by the United States and coalition forces" in Iraq, noting that the cycle of violence has led to the "denigration of human dignity and gross violations of human rights of Iraqi prisoners of war."

The bishops say they pray for military personnel and their families, and ask that United Methodists pray for peace.

The council also asks the U.S. government to "request that the United Nations become involved in the transition process to a new Iraqi government" and that a multinational development plan be started for rebuilding Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations.

The statement comes a few days after the April 27-May 7 General Conference, the church's top legislative assembly and the only entity that speaks for the entire denomination. A group of bishops had drafted a resolution for the assembly to consider at its gathering in Pittsburgh, but the resolution didn't have enough votes to get on the floor.

However, before adjourning shortly before midnight May 7, the General Conference delegates did approve a resolution supporting calls for a full investigation into the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. The delegates also urged that the prisoners be treated in accordance with the international Geneva Convention. Reports and photographs of Iraqi prisoners being abused by U.S. soldiers have caused an international furor, particularly in the Middle East.

On May 5, the National Council of Churches USA issued a statement expressing sadness and indignation over the situation in Iraq. The NCC, which includes the United Methodist Church among its members, said U.S. actions have led to the alienation of many around the world. "It is time the United States takes actions that befit its place among the community of nations," the NCC said.

In their statement, the United Methodist bishops said the "continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially children, and the increasing death toll among United States, coalition military and civilian personnel in Iraq grieves the heart of God."

They went on to note that "the premises advanced by the United States government for engaging in this war - namely, the presumption of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged connection between al-Qaida and Iraq - have not been verified."

The council includes 68 active bishops in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of the 11.4 million-member denomination.

A full text of the council's statement follows:

Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Resolution on the War in Iraq

Whereas, the prophet Micah reminds us that God "shall judge between many
peoples, and shall arbitrate strong nations far away," and calls nations to "beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks," that nations will no longer "lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3); and

Whereas, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states that
"we deplore war" and "urge peaceful settlement of all disputes" (Para. 164G,
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2000); and,

Whereas, the continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially children,
and the increasing death toll among United States, coalition military and
civilian personnel in Iraq grieves the heart of God; and,

Whereas, the premises advanced by the United States government for engaging
in this war, namely, the presumption of weapons of mass destruction and
alleged connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq have not been verified; and,

Whereas, the cycle of violence in which the United States is engaged has
created a context for the denigration of human dignity and gross violations
of human rights of Iraqi prisoners of war;

Therefore, The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church:

1. Laments the continued warfare by the United States and coalition forces.
2. Prays for military personnel and their families who have sacrificed as a result of this war and for a swift end to the destruction and violence raging in Iraq.
3. Asks the United States government to request that the United Nations become involved in the transition process to a new Iraqi government.
4. Requests the United Nations to establish a legitimate transitional government of Iraq to maintain the peace and safeguard sustainable development efforts.
5. Calls for the rebuilding of Iraq and other nations in the Middle East through a multinational development plan that honors the participation of the peoples of the region and gives them hope for the future.
6. Invites United Methodists throughout the world to pray for a new era of peace and to advocate for public policies that promote justice, life, and reconciliation among adversaries.


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