Christians have been urged to hold a day of remembrance, prayer and action on 19th March, the eve of the anniversary of the war with Iraq.
The call is one of the responses following an ecumenical seminar held in London this week.
Representatives of Christian peace organisations, Justice and Peace networks and social responsibility groups gathered to discuss ways in which Christians might respond to the war and on-going occupation of Iraq.
Speaker Paul Rogers, professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford described how the UK Government had been drawn into an almost endless war in the region, beginning with Afghanistan, spreading to Iraq and possibly beyond which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and detentions without trial.
He went on to say that the military path was not working. State centred security models needed to be turned to human security models, he said, addressing the 'real insecurity threats to our world' – the rich-poor divide, climate change and the expansion of military technology.
Milan Rai, co-founder of Justice not Vengeance and editor of Peace News said that while some felt that anti-war actions of Spring 2003 did not stop the UK from becoming involved in the war, they did force the Blair government to make accommodations at the time, and he believes, have helped prevent the escalation of a military response to the situation in Iran.
Polls suggest that public opinion now stands 2:1 in opposition to the on-going occupation and a deep sense of responsibility for the suffering of the people of Iraq.
Suha Rassam, an Iraqi and former professor of medicine at the University of Baghdad spoke of the particular plight of the ancient Christian community of Iraq which now fears extinction. 44% of Iraqi refugees in Syria are from the Christian community. Christian churches and church personnel have been especially targeted in recent months. Suha spoke of the need to challenge both Muslim and Christian fundamentalism and to create ways for people to recognise their need of each other in building peace in Iraq.
At the seminar, the organisers - Pax Christi and the Fellowship of Reconciliation - launched their Christian Peace Witness for Iraq on 19th March, urging churches and communities to hold vigils or prayer services in town centres to remind local communities of the 5th anniversary of the invasion. A vigil will be held in central London in the early evening on that day.
Church communities are also being urged to write to local MPs about the plight of Iraqi refugees and detainees and to urge that the UK Government work at non-military ways of bringing justice and sustained peace to the people of Iraq. Christians have also been urged to support Muslim and Christian agencies working with displaced people.
A full text of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq can be found at http://www.for.org.uk/cpwi