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US church leaders denounce Iraq war, confess inability to stop it

A group of religious leaders from the United States has issued a public letter criticising the war in Iraq and acknowledging their churches’
inability to stop it.

"We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of preemptive war," the 18 February letter to the assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) states. It notes that that it came from the WCC’s US Conference, a grouping of 34 US member churches of the Geneva-based council. There were no individual signatures on the letter

"There is division within our churches," the Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, a member of the Orthodox Church in America and moderator of the US Conference, told journalists in Porto Alegre attending the WCC’s ninth assembly. "We cannot speak authoritatively for any church, but we are responsible leaders elected by our churches and we feel compelled to speak."

Kishkovsky said that "around the world the US Christian voices that are heard support President Bush and the war. We want the world to know that there’s a serious moral struggle going on and in reality a majority of Americans does not support this war."

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), said the letter was not intended to undermine US troops in Iraq. "They are our sons and daughters and the sons and daughters of our neighbours," she explained. "We honour their courage and sense of duty.

"But here in Porto Alegre," she continued, "we meet the parents of other sons and daughters and neighbours whose lives have been torn apart by this war * and we have to tell them that we’re profoundly sorry."

The letter, in the form of a "confession," also criticises US government policy saying it contributes to environmental degradation and growing poverty around the world.

"An emerging theme as we visit our partners around the world is the growing sense that we’re being seen as a dangerous nation,"
said the Rev. John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ. He said this is "not just due to the violence of the war but the unchecked destruction of the environment and our wealth in the face of the earth’s poverty."

Watkins added: "We benefit every day from the policies our government undertakes. As beneficiaries we have to confess." [422 words]

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