WCC calls for freeing of Christian peace workers
The World Council of Churches (WCC) today called for the immediate release of four peace-workers kidnapped in Iraq and urged the Iraqi government to take urgent action.
In a statement signed by Peter Weiderud, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, the global ecumenical body asked the government of Iraq to undertake whatever steps are necessary to secure the safe release of the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team.
'Their prolonged captivity is not in any one's interest and is likely to further embitter and polarize Iraqi society, causing anger and frustration,' the statement affirms.
Recalling the WCC's assessment of the war on Iraq as being 'immoral, illegal and ill-advised,' the statement says organizations and people working today in Iraq to bring about peace and reconciliation need 'encouragement and support'.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of national churches, now 347 in number, in more than 120 countries across all continents and from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member, but works cooperatively with the Council.
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has said that its members (Anglican, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Black majority churches across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) will be joining prayers and vigils in support of Norman Kember and the other captives.
The Christian Peacemaker Team workers have been kidnapped by a previously unknown militant group which alleges that they are spies - a claim refuted by all who know the work of CPT, which first revealed abuse of Iraqi detainees before the Abu Ghraib scandal hit the mainstream media headlines.
The UK, Canadian and US governments say that they are doing all they can to assist enquiries.
The full text of the WCC statement follows:
WCC CALLS FOR RELEASE OF PEACE WORKERS IN IRAQ
The World Council of Churches is deeply distressed at the kidnapping of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq. The four peace workers [are] Tom Fox (USA), Norman Kember (UK), James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden (Canada). All four were engaged in work for the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a volunteer organization that has a history of sending teams to situations of conflicts and crisis zones around the world.
The World Council of Churches since its inception in 1948 has clearly spoken out against war and violence and has always called for dialogue and engagement to settle disputes and disagreements. The Council in March 2003 spoke out on the war on Iraq as being immoral, illegal and ill-advised.
Those organizations and their staff who are working in Iraq to bring about peace and reconciliation and for protection of civilians need our encouragement and support. These peacemakers are undertaking this work at great risk to their personal safety and security. In situations of conflicts like Iraq, churches are called to seek peace and pursue it. Efforts therefore need to be made by those concerned about human life to intensify initiatives for active non-violence and peace building to resolve conflicts.
The kidnappings have caused immense pain, suffering and anxiety amongst the families and friends of those held captive. Their prolonged captivity is not in anyone's interest and is likely to further embitter and polarize Iraqi society, causing anger and frustration. We appeal on humanitarian grounds to those holding them captive to ensure that while under captivity they are treated well and looked after.
The World Council of Churches calls on those responsible for the kidnappings to immediately release all four peace workers so that they can join their families and loved ones. The Council also calls on the government of Iraq to undertake the steps necessary to secure their safe release.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christian peacemakers say coalition force causes Iraqi violence; Dossier on detainees presented to Iraqi authority; Christian peacemakers advised to leave Iraq; Christian peace activists launch in the UK; Christians challenge US claim about Iraqi torture; Christians aid Muslim nonviolence initiative in Iraq; Christian peacemakers question conduct of Iraq elections]