PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil - A coalition of American churches sharply
denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday, accusing Washington of
"raining down terror" and apologizing to other countries for
"the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown."
The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian
churches in nearly a decade, also warned the United States was pushing the
world toward environmental catastrophe with a "culture of
consumption" and its refusal to back international accords seeking to
battle global warming.
"We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched
in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights,"
said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of World
Council of Churches. "We mourn all who have died or been injured in
this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name."
The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream
Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is
not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the
Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox
churches and Baptist denominations, among others.
The statement is part of widening religious pressure on the
Bush administration, which still counts on the support of evangelical
churches and other conservative denominations but is widely unpopular with
liberal-minded Protestant congregations.
Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, the moderator for the U.S. group of WCC
members, said the letter was backed by the leaders of the churches but was
not cleared by lower-level bodies. He predicted friction within
congregations about the tone of the message.
"There is much internal anguish and there is
division," said Kishkovsky, ecumenical officer of the Orthodox Church
of America. "I believe church leaders and communities are wrestling
with the moral questions that this letter is addressing."
On Friday, the U.S. National Council of Churches - which
includes many WCC members - released a letter appealing to Washington to
close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and saying reports of alleged
torture violated "the fundamental Christian belief in the dignity of
the human person."
The two-page statement from the WCC group came at the midpoint
of a 10-day meeting of more than 4,000 religious leaders, scholars and
activists discussing trends and goals for major Christian denominations
for the coming decades. The WCC's last global assembly was in 1998 in
Zimbabwe - just four months after al-Qaida staged twin bombings at U.S.
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
"Our country responded (to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks) by
seeking to reclaim a privileged and secure place in the world, raining
down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbours . . .
entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the
sake of national interests," said the statement. "Nations have
been demonized and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are
nothing short of idolatrous."
Rev. Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ), worried that some may interpret the statement as
undermining U.S. troops in Iraq.
"We honor their courage and sense of duty, but . . . we,
as people of faith, have to say to our brothers and sisters, 'We are so
profoundly sorry,"' Watkins said.
The message also accused U.S. officials of ignoring warnings
about climate change and treating the world's "finite resources as if
they are private possessions." It went on to criticize U.S. domestic
policies for refusing to confront racism and poverty.
"Hurricane Katrina revealed to the world those left behind
in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract," said the
The churches said they had "grown heavy with guilt"
for not doing enough to speak out against the Iraq war and other issues.
The statement asked forgiveness for a world that's "grown weary from
the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown."
© Copyright 2006 Associated Press