US Christian leaders urge Obama, "build, don't destroy" in Afghanistan

By staff writers
November 20, 2009

Over a dozen church leaders in the United States are urging a new strategy for Afghanistan on President Barack Obama, based on a "a humanitarian and development surge" rather than military might.

In their "build, don't destroy" theme, they have been backed by thousands of signatories.

Support for a new way forward along these lines is growing, says co-author Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical who heads Sojourners in Washington DC.

InterAction, a coalition of 187 non-governmental relief and development organizations focused on the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, has now written a letter of support for the new approach set out in the letter.

America can either tolerate constant and crippling conflict, or recognise that the yearning for peace is universal and strengthen its resolve to end conflicts around the world, say the Christian leaders, echoing President Obama's words from a recent address back to him.

"Many of us as religious leaders are deeply involved with the people and organizations who know places like Afghanistan the best; and they are neither the military nor the private contractors who increasingly dominate US foreign policy in war-torn regions," they write.

"Rather they are the NGOs, both faith-based and secular, doing relief and development work which have been there for years, have become quite indigenous, and are much more trusted by the people of the country than are the US military."

In addition to a humanitarian initiative, the signatories of the letter, who critique the "narrow" military-focused thinking in Washington, argue in favour of active peacemaking and peacebuilding in the region.

They acknowledge the difficult realities of the situation, but back the pursuit of non-violent paths forward, writing: "We speak not as military or political strategists, but as religious leaders seeking to faithfully apply our moral values to this most crucial issue."

The Christian leaders add: "We also strongly recommend a diplomatic surge. We urge you to continue pursuing political and diplomatic solutions to these complicated issues, promoting stable governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan, seeking political integration of those elements of the Taliban that are willing to cooperate in preventing the use of their territory for launching terrorist strikes, engaging with the United Nations and other states in the region to build diplomatic and economic support for regional stabilisation and economic development, as well as international policing to prevent the spread of extremists and the use of terror."

Read the whole letter here:

Further signatories can be added on the original version here:

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