United Church of Canada calls for an end to detention and occupation in Iraq
As friends and family anxiously await word regarding the well-being of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams being held hostage in Iraq, Canada's largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Canada, has today asked Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin to call for the full withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq.
Noting the widespread and unprecedented level of support for the kidnapped volunteers, from political and religious Islamic leaders alike, the UCC says that it is 'fitting that the United Church, as a Christian community in the West, reflect the generous act of our Muslim brothers and sisters by speaking boldly on behalf of the human rights of Iraqis'.
The church describes the military occupation as the core underlying cause of the violence, an analysis which goes against the dominant assumptions of Western policy.
It also 'implore[s] the Canadian government to use all diplomatic means to press the Iraqi government to take appropriate legal and just actions regarding detainees held in Iraqi detention facilities.'
The UCC has been notably outspoken in its approach. Other churches and Christian groups, while agreeing that military engagement offers no long-term solution to the question of peace, justice and stability in Iraqi, point also to the deep divisions among Muslims as being part of the cycle of violence.
Christian Peacemaker Teams have focussed on the wrongs committed by their own governments, but also make plain their opposition to violence, racism, injustice and hatred on all sides.
The full text of the UCC letter reads:
Dear Prime Minister Martin:
In this Christmas season, we are aware that we are at a moment in history where beliefs and action can bring about a faithful partnership between Muslim and Christian, Arab and Westerner.
Four men came to Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams to work for human rights. Unfortunately, they were kidnapped. Like many Christians around the world, we have offered our prayers for their safe release. Religious and political leaders from the international Muslim community have also sincerely and without hesitation raised their voices in defence of our friends. It is altogether fitting that the United Church, as a Christian community in the West, reflect the generous act of our Muslim brothers and sisters by speaking boldly on behalf of the human rights of Iraqis.
For far too long, thousands of Iraqis have been illegally detained, abused, and tortured. This has caused suffering for them as well as for their families. Illegal detention and systematic abuse and torture of those detained must stop.
We know that disregard for the human rights of detainees is only one aspect of the widespread disregard for Iraqi human rights. This grave situation is the result of the illegal foreign occupation of Iraq. Peace and justice will only come to Iraq through a deep and abiding respect for the human rights of Iraqis by both the US and Iraqi governments.
We believe the occupation is the underlying source for this disregard of human rights. The occupation must end.
In this season of peace, we implore the Government of Canada and the international community to call for the full withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, and the end of construction and placement of foreign military bases on Iraqi territory.
We further implore the Canadian government to use all diplomatic means to press the Iraqi government to take appropriate legal and just actions regarding detainees held in Iraqi detention facilities.
Please inform us of the steps you have taken to address the above concerns.
We offer of prayers and our hope for the safe release of all those whose lives are threatened and who are held unjustly, for the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, and for thousands of Iraqi citizens.
[Also on Ekklesia: Regular Iraq and captives updates on FaithInSociety through to 23 December 2005. Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peacemakers; Christian peace activists go on trial over Iraq action; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages grows; Lobbying goes on as Iraq hostage deadline passes;Faith groups in the US unite to back Iraq captives; Officials and families seek news on Iraq Christian peace workers; Search goes on for Christian peacemaker kidnapped in Iraq; Palestinian bishop seeks mercy for Iraq peace workers; Abu Qatada pleas for Iraq captives as deadline is extended]