Magazine article The Christian Century

World Council to U.S.: Leave Iraq

Magazine article The Christian Century

World Council to U.S.: Leave Iraq

Article excerpt

THE MAIN governing body of the World Council of Churches, struggling with finances but buoyed by electing an African pastor as its top official, lost little of its feistiness toward Western powers at a pivotal conference in Geneva. The WCC's Central Committee called for the replacement of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq by United Nations personnel despite apparently slim chances for that to happen.

"It's very clear that to do this, the UN Security Council would have to take action against two of its permanent members, which is not likely," said Peter Weiderud, director of the WGC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. "But there is a need to look at the totality of the situation in Iraq."

Nevertheless, at the same time in Washington, the White House and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said they were planning to offer the UN a more prominent role in security operations in Iraq, where U.S. and British troops have continued to suffer casualties during the coalition's postwar occupation. Powell told reporters September 3 that diplomats at the UN would be approached with a draft resolution to share in Iraq political and economic transition.

The WCC statement, approved unanimously with two abstentions September 1, reiterated a previous stance that the invasion of Iraq was "immoral, ill advised and in breach of the principles of the UN charter." But the committee focused most of its attention on the postwar rebuilding of Iraq, calling for the UN Security Council "to insist on the establishment of a legitimate, sovereign, elected and inclusive government as early as possible and for the immediate and orderly withdrawal of the occupying forces."

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leader Clifton Kirkpatrick said he was "deeply grateful for this statement which gives some understanding of what we're to do next, because we have been so concerned with trying to stop the war."

The Central Committee also implied that the prosecution of President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for war crimes could be an appropriate result of what it called the "illegal resort to war" on Iraq. But the statement also praised the Bush-urged UN lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq after 13 years and called for the cancellation of Iraq's debt.

The WCC affirmed the role of Iraq's churches in the reconstruction of Iraq and the interreligions cooperation that is being demonstrated there. It pledged the WCC's commitment to support those efforts.

In a leadership transition, the committee elected the WCC's first African general secretary, Sam Kobia of the Methodist Church in Kenya, who will take office in January. …

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