(RNS) Even as some prominent Christians are calling on the U.S. to take more forceful military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to halt American airstrikes and pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict.

“While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer,” the 53 clergy, theologians and religious sisters and brothers write in the Aug. 27 open letter.

Pope Francis linked war and capitalism together in remarks made to La Vanguardia in June 2014. Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales

While Pope Francis recently said it was “licit to stop the unjust aggressor” — referring to the Islamic State, or IS — the pontiff underscored that he was not endorsing bombing or warfare. Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales

“Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq,” they continue. “As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.”

The signatories note that while Pope Francis recently said it was “licit to stop the unjust aggressor” — referring to the Islamic State, or IS — the pontiff underscored that he was not endorsing bombing or warfare.

Among the Catholic signers are Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network; Gerry G. Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA;  and Sister Janet Mock, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Others include Susan T. Henry-Crowe, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, in addition to numerous university professors and other Protestant denominational leaders.

The signers argued that many factors contributed to the current volatile mix in the Middle East, including past U.S. political and military campaigns in the region. And they point to the American strikes that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 as an example of how that approach has backfired.

Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, LCWR Executive Director. Photo courtesy of Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Sister Janet Mock, LCWR executive director. Photo courtesy of Leadership Conference of Women Religious


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention,” they write.

The letter writers list eight specific recommendations for their “just peace” agenda, including an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the armed groups.

This week’s letter stands in stark contrast to a petition launched earlier this month by more than 50 Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists who demanded that Obama sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They said “nothing short of the destruction” of the Islamic State can protect Christians and other religious minorities.

Also this month, Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist at Princeton University, told televangelist Pat Robertson that the U.S. has to lead a campaign to destroy the IS, and he said he would support sending ground troops to Iraq if that’s what it takes to do the job.

YS/MG END GIBSON

23 Comments

  1. more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to halt American airstrikes and pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict.

    Because it pleases them to strike poses and it’s characteristic of their employment that they never have to contemplate the relationship between cause and effect.

  2. Peaceful resolutions are good intentions, but without being a hawk, we must consider those to whom we are speaking, those who cut off the heads of people with whom they differ, those who commit all kinds of atrocities in the name of religion. It makes religion evil.

    I am not convinced you can obtain humane behavior by talking to those who are so ready to perform such evil, inhumane acts in the name of any religion, in the name of an ugly god. It seems religion often promotes as much evil as any good.

    Extremely sadly, the history of religion has been as full of such evil as we are now witnessing by promoters of ISIS. That evil has been prompted by religious writings and religious beliefs. Christianity is not exempt. Remember the Crusades against Islam. Remember the inquisitions and other torturous behavior performed in the name of “God” and “Holy Mother Church” against its own members. Remember the many evils of the Reformation. And consider the mean-spirited talk we hear and the similar efforts that are promoted by many Christian evangelicals in this country today.

    While we are at it, we must never stop considering the continuing cover-up of the sex scandal, the sexual atrocities committed against our young people, by the leaders of the Catholic Church–from top to bottom.

    We have a right to protect ourselves, but an awful lot has to be done in correcting our own manners. Consider the crude and cruel ways of so many extremists on the so-called religious right. That’s religion? Consider the numerous members of that extremist group in our own country, even in our Congress, who falsely claim that this nation was built on Christianity, their version of Christianity, not on a plain and strong desire for democracy.

    When people talk like that, they show they know nothing of history, and they also display a mean spirit that should shame anyone who claims to be religious. We have the ugly parts of religious history to keep in mind, even our own, even our current behavior. There are more ways to dehumanize other human beings besides cutting off their heads.

    • The ONLY true hope for mankind that will soon bring TRUE peace and security for the meek ones of ALL nations is: God’s kingdom or heavenly government, of which Jesus is King (and which was the major theme of his preaching when he was on earth; Matthew 4:17).

      Man has tried so many forms of government, which still have not provided, in most cases, what they promise for the benefit of the masses.

      What is SO unique about God’s kingdom is that the King, Jesus, was a perfect human who was able to see the human condition as it is, who can show empathy for all the things we go through, even in our imperfect state.

      Jesus’ rule will be based on righteousness, love, peace and justice, qualities we are not used to from our imperfect human governments (Isaiah 11:1-9).

      Thankfully, that government will soon put an end to all human governments (Daniel 2:44) and put an end to all sickness, disease, old age and death (Revelation 21:1-4). What human government can accomplish ALL of those things???

      Meek mankind (after the destruction by God’s kingdom of all wicked ones/terrorists; Psalm 37:10,11) has such marvelous things to look forward to, “real life” for an eternity on a paradise earth with complete brotherhood of man and “real peace” all because of the intense love of God and his son, Jesus, for mankind!!! :-D :-D :-D

      • P.S. to Gilhcan, FALSE religion has been responsible for much bloodshed, including the death of prophets, holy ones and all those slaughtered on earth (Revelation 18:24). Its days left are short! (Revelation, chapter 19)

        • Fran, FALSE religion is nothing more than the religion someone else believes. From an anti-theist perspective, all religion is false, and all but perhaps a few, like Jainism have been the excuse for terrible actions against other humans for a very long time. It is only when man evolves to understand that we were not created in a gods image, but rather we create gods in our own, that we will start to become truly civilized, and this butchery will end.

    • Perhaps anything over. 500-1000 years ago relative to war is immaterial at this point in history. Evil it’s be destroyed. Self-defense is always permitted. David didn’t just kill Goliath. He tracked down and killed his entire army.

  3. I truly wonder what world these folks live in and if they have ever experienced the very reality and face of evil. EVIL expressed as terrible violence against people for their faith, against cultures and history for the rich heritage of diversity they express, and against those who are totally innocent has to be contained. If these folks think we can sit by without military efforts to stop this carnage while we seek “non-violent” solutions they are living not only on a different planet, but in a different universe (and it is NOT the kingdom of God).
    Does anyone remember the Holocaust?
    Fr. John W. Cahill
    former Director of Justice and Peace for the Diocese of Covington, KY.

    • John,

      God’s kingdom is his heavenly government of which Jesus is the King, and who will soon rule with 144,000 former humans who are spirit-anointed or born-again Christians (spirit persons) over mankind on earth for 1,000 years, and bring mankind back to a perfect state. This will be take place after God’s kingdom puts an end to all human governments (Daniel 2:44).

  4. Re: “… more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to halt American airstrikes and pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict.”

    I wonder if they’re also making the same request of ISIS. And I wonder if Obama not bombing ISIS could really make the Middle East peaceful.

    Somehow I think the answer to both of those questions is “no.”

  5. What a disaster.

    “This week’s letter stands in stark contrast to a petition launched earlier this month by more than 50 Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists who demanded that Obama sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq.”

    Christians: DON’T BOMB! – “Love thy neighbor” (JESUS)
    Christians: BOMB EVERYONE! – “Execute them” (JESUS)

    Instead of using religion (for a change!)
    why not just try coming up with a sensible, PRACTICAL middle east policy which takes in wider considerations and objectives for our country!

    Some killing of enemies may have to be done – but it should only happen toward an agreed objective which benefits American interests IN THE LONG RUN but is also something the people of the Middle East might be able to agree with as well.

    Most Muslims are peaceful as are most Christians and Jews.
    Only the people who actually BELIEVE IN SURRENDERING TO GOD COMPLETELY are the dangerous ones:

    “SLAY THEM” – Q’URAN

  6. I’m a Christian – they are not my “leaders”. I know if ISIS is not eliminated they will torture and kill more Christians. Don’t be ignorant. There is “a time to kill” (Ecclesiastes 3:3).

    • @Ryan,

      “I’m a Christian…There is ‘a time to kill’”

      You are a Christian? So…

      :-) “Forgive not 7 times but 7 times 70″ – JESUS
      :-( “Execute them” – JESUS

      :-) “Bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:27)
      :-( “DON’T BLESS those who curse you” (Matthew 10:13)

      :-) 
“My Peace I leave you” – JESUS
      :-( “I do not come to bring PEACE, but a sword.” – JESUS

      So you say you are a Christian?
      As you can see, that clears up absolutely nothing. :-) :-(

      Religion is nonsense.

  7. As Max pointed out we have two groups of Christian voices:

    Christians: DON’T BOMB! – “Love thy neighbor” (JESUS)
    Christians: BOMB EVERYONE! – “Execute them” (JESUS)

    Now, I don’t think the last group said ‘bomb everyone,’ but that aside, both groups are appealling to our civil rulers and both seem to have forgotten Christ our King and put their hope in the rulers of this world.

    While I am a Christian pacifist, I recognize that the U.S. crossed a line by invading Iraq, and opened Pandor’s Box. There is no closing it, but governments have a responsiblilty to defend the helpless whom their policies put in harms way. We reap what we sow as do many others.

    Christians are called to be the light of the world, not the sword of the Lord. But the Lord does give a responsibilty to government. Romans ’13′ has often been used as and excuse by Christian hawks (an oxymoron) to raise the war cry. But in the current situation, Spurgeon says it best: “if a nation is driven to fight in its own defence, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy’s slaughter. . . ” http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/surgeon-christians-evangelicals-war-pacifism/

  8. Rev. Albert W. Kovacs - UCC

    Our hippie President knows the way to stop ISIL is to have Barry McQuire sin “Eve of Destruction,” and play over loud speakers the peace songs of Pete Seeger and Arlo G\uthrie, “You’ve got to love everybody . . . ” Oh, a few more thousand Christians, Jews and the wrong kind of Muslims will die until they get the point, but it’ll happen “Any day now, any day now . . . . ” – By the way, those 5 fools don’t speak for this UCC pastor who knows what will work: “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!”

  9. If given the same amount of political power and access to funds and weapons we would be seeing such behavior from Christians as well.

    Anyone who thinks this is just “a Muslim thing” is delusional and ignorant. There are examples of Christian based terrorists in the US and all over the world. The IRA, LRA, KKK and a host of others from the past show otherwise. Nothing about the Bible has ever precluded violence towards non-believers or of sects they felt were heretical or wayward.

    Religious extremists of all stripes REGARDLESS OF THEIR GIVEN FAITH will gravitate towards use of any means of force to carry out their will.

    “We don’t cut off the heads of ANY babies and put them on sticks! ”

    LATELY. Or in the US. In Central Africa however, that is another story. Do I have to go into details of the conquest of the Americas, Rwanda massacres, the Ustasha, Falangists…?

  10. Jesus advocated child murder as an alternative to learning something other than the faith he espoused. You really should have read the entire passage.

    ISIS is just following the same religious dictates. This is why we call them extremists.

  11. @Sonofthunder,

    I agree. Go after the murderers- the be headers – and round them up.
    Execute them if you must. It is probably the moral thing to do.

    But don’t tell me it is because ‘Jesus’ gives permission.
    Jesus has nothing to do with decency.

  1. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  2. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  3. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  4. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

    […] While some Christians are calling on the U.S. to take more forceful military action against Islamic extremists, more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.