War crime in Iraq: Vatican

March 18, 2003


MILITARY intervention against Iraq would be a crime against peace demanding vengeance before God, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has said.

"War is a crime against peace which cries for vengeance before God," said Archbishop Renato Raffaele Martino, speaking on Vatican Radio.

He stressed the deeply unjust and immoral nature of war, saying it was condemned by God because civilians were the worst sufferers.

Martino, formerly Vatican permanent representative to the United Nations, strongly denounced the determination of the United States and its allies to disarm Iraq by force.

"Do not reply with a stone to the child who asks for bread," he said. "They are preparing to reply with thousands of bombs to a people that have been asking for bread for the last 12 years."

Stressing the Roman Catholic church would continue to insist on the need and the urgency of peace, he said: "As always, it will be the Good Samaritan who will bind the wounds of a wounded and weakened people."

Pope John Paul II, one of the most prominent opponents of war on Iraq, urged UN Security Council members yesterday to continue negotiations on the disarmament of Iraq and avert a looming military conflict.

"I want to remind UN members and particularly those who make up the Security Council that the use of force is the last resort after having exhausted all peaceful solutions, as stipulated by the UN charter," the Pope told tens of thousands of worshippers gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

"I lived through World War II and I survived the Second World War. For this reason, I have the duty to say ‘Never again war’. We know that it is impossible to say peace at any price, but we all know how important our responsibility is."

(From correspondents in Vatican City)


‘Illegal, unwise, immoral’

(A statement from religious leaders in the United States and United Kingdom)
November 26, 2002

"Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:4)

As the calls for military action against Iraq continue
from our two governments, despite the new opening for UN weapons inspections, we are compelled by the prophetic vision of peace to speak a word of caution to our governments and our people. We represent a diversity of Christian communities — from the just war traditions to the pacifist tradition. As leaders of these communities in the United States and the United Kingdom, it is our considered judgement that a pre-emptive war against Iraq, particularly in the current situation would not be justified. Yet we believe Iraq must be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction; and that alternative courses to war should be diligently pursued.

Let there be no mistake: We regard Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq as a real threat to his own people, neighbouring countries, and to the world. His previous use and continued development of weapons of mass destruction is of great concern to us. The question is how to respond to that threat. We believe the Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so.

But our nations and the international community must pursue these goals in a manner consistent with moral principles, political wisdom, and international law. As Christians, we seek to be guided by the vision of a world in which nations do not attempt to resolve international problems by making war on other nations. It is a long-held Christian principle that all governments and citizens are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

We therefore urge our governments, especially President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, to pursue alternative means to disarm Iraq of its most destructive weapons. Diplomatic cooperation with the United Nations in renewing rigorously effective and thoroughly comprehensive weapons inspections, linked to the gradual lifting of sanctions, could achieve the disarmament of Iraq without the risks and costs of military attack.

We do not believe that pre-emptive war with Iraq is a last resort, could effectively guard against massive civilian casualties, would be waged with adequate international authority, and could predictably create a result proportionate to the cost. And it is not clear that the threat of Saddam Hussein cannot be contained in other, less costly ways. An attack on Iraq could set a precedent for pre-emptive war, further destabilise the Middle East, and fuel more terrorism. We, therefore, do not believe that war with Iraq can be justified under the principle of a "just war," but would be illegal, unwise, and immoral.


Whether we oppose all war, or reluctantly accept it only as a last resort, in this case the U.S. government has not presented an adequate justification for war. Iraq has not attacked or directly threatened the United States, nor is it clear that its weapons of mass destruction pose an immediate and urgent threat to neighbouring countries or the world. It has not been credibly implicated in the attacks of September 11. Under international law, including the U.N. Charter, the only circumstance under which individual states may invoke the authority to go to war is in self-defence following an armed attack. In Christian just war doctrine, there are rigorous conditions even for an act of self-defence. Pre-emptive war by one state against another is not permitted by either law or doctrine. For the United States to initiate military action against Iraq without authorisation by the United Nations Security Council would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the foundations of international security. And under our domestic governance, the US Congress and the UK Parliament must also play a key role in authorising any contemplated military action.


The potential social and diplomatic consequences of a war against Iraq make it politically unwise. The US and the UK could be acting almost entirely alone. Many nations, including our European allies and most of the Arab world, strongly oppose such a war. To initiate a major war in an area of the world already in great turmoil could destabilise governments and increase political extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond. It would add fuel to the fires of violence that are already consuming the region. It would exacerbate anti-American hatred and produce new recruits for terror attacks against the United States and Israel.

A unilateral war would also undermine the continued political cooperation needed for the international campaign to isolate terrorist networks. The US could very well win a battle against Iraq and lose the campaign against terrorism. The potentially dangerous and highly chaotic aftermath of a war with Iraq would require years of occupation, investment, and a high level of international cooperation — which have yet to be adequately planned or even considered. And the Iraqi people themselves have an important role in creating non-violent resistance within their own country with international support.


We are particularly concerned by the potential human costs of war. If the military strategy includes massive air attacks and urban warfare in the streets of Baghdad, tens of thousands of innocent civilians could lose their lives. This alone makes such a military attack morally unacceptable. In addition, the people of Iraq continue to suffer severely from the effects of the Gulf War, the resulting decade of sanctions, and the neglect and oppression of a brutal dictator. Rather than inflicting further suffering on them through a costly war, we should assist in rebuilding their country and alleviating their suffering. We also recognise that in any conflict, the casualties among attacking forces could be very high. This potential suffering in our own societies should also lead to prudent caution.

We reaffirm our religious hope for a world in which "nation shall not lift up sword against nation." We pray that our governments will be guided by moral principles, political wisdom, and legal standards, and will step back from their calls for war.

United States

Philip A. Amerson, president, The Claremont School of Theology.
David Beckmann, president, Bread for the World.
Peter Borgdorff, executive director of ministries, Christian Reformed Church in North America.
Ronald Brugler, president, The Swedenborgian Church.
John A. Buehrens, past president, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Tony Campolo, professor emeritus, Eastern University.
John Bryson Chane, bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
Canice Connors, OFM.Conv., president, Conference of Major Superiors of Men .
John P. Crossley,director, School of Religion University of Southern California.
Robert Edgar, general secretary, National Council of Churches.
Joseph A. Fiorenza, bishop, Catholic Diocese of Galveston – Houston.
Jim Forest, secretary, Orthodox Peace Fellowship.
Robert Franklin, president, Interdenominational Theological Center.
Linda C. Fuller, co-founder and president, Habitat for Humanity.
Millard Fuller, founder and president, Habitat for Humanity.
Michael J. Gorman, Ph.D., Dean, The Ecumenical Institute of Theology.
St. Mary’s Seminary & University.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary, Reformed Church in America.
Richard L. Hamm, general minister and president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada.
Stan Hastey, executive director, The Alliance of Baptists.
Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
President-elect, National Council of Churches.
William C. Imes, president, Bangor Theological Seminary.
Thomas H. Jeavons, general secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Holly H. Johnson, president, Blanton-Peale Institute of Psychology and Religion.
Norman J. Kansfield, president, New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
Michael Mata, director, Urban Leadership Institute.
Felton Edwin May, bishop, Baltimore-Washington Conference United Methodist Church.
A. Roy Medley, general secretary, American Baptist Churches USA.
John W. Oliver, coordinator, Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America.
Glenn Palmberg, president, Evangelical Covenant Church.
Robert M. Parham, executive director, Baptist Center for Ethics.
Judy Mills Reimer, general secretary, Church of the Brethren General Board.
David Robinson, national coordinator, Pax Christi USA.
Cheryl J. Sanders, professor of Christian Ethics, Howard University School of Divinity Senior Pastor, Third Street Church of God.
William J. Shaw, president, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Carole Shinnick, SSND, executive director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Ronald G. Sider, president, Evangelicals for Social Action.
Glen Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics Fuller Theological Seminary.
Walter F. Sullivan, bishop-president of Pax Christi USA , bishop, Catholic Diocese of Richmond.
John H. Thomas, general minister and president, United Church of Christ.
Joe Volk, executive secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Jim Wallis, executive director/editor, Sojourners.
Barbara G. Wheeler, president, Auburn Theological Seminary.
Mary Ann Zollmann BVM, president, Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

United Kingdom
Peter Price, bishop Of Bath and Wells.
Michael Langrish, bishop of Exeter.
Stephen Venner, bishop of Dover.
Michael Dunelm, bishop of Durham.
Michael Scott-Joynt, bishop of Winchester.
Colin Bennetts, bishop of Coventry.
Keiran Conry, bishop of Arundel and Brighton (RC).
Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester and Bishop to HM Prisons, Church of England.
Jonathan Bailey, bishop of Derby.
John Perry, bishop of Chelmsford.
John Hind, bishop of Chichester.
Tim Stevens, bishop of Leicester
Keith Sutton, bishop of Lichfield.
John Saxbee, bishop of Lincoln.
Anthony Pierce, bishop of Swansea & Brecon.
John Gladwin, bishop of Guilford.
Christopher Herbert, bishop of St. Albans.
John Stewart Davies, bishop of St Asaph.
The Rt Rev’d Dr Barry Morgan, bishop of Llandaff.
Most Rev Andrew Bruce Cameron, bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney.
Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Michael Hare Duke, retired bishop of St Andrews.
Maurice Taylor, bishop of Galloway, Scotland (RC).
Alan D McDonald, convener, Church and Nation Committee
Church of Scotland.
Dr Nigel Goring Wright, president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
C Rosemary H Castagner, clerk, Ireland Yearly Meeting’s Committee.
Canon Andrew White, coventry Cathedral Reconciliation Centre.
Pat Gaffney, general secretary, Pax Christi UK n


Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2003 Year 9  No. 85, Editorial 3



Related Articles