53 National Religious Groups, Academics, and Ministers Urge Alternatives to U.S. Military Action in Iraq

Dear President Obama:

As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer.

Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As

difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the

crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy,

nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation

Pope Francis has affirmed that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare,” and more

recently said that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop;’ I don’t say

bomb, make war—stop him.” But how we ask?

In addition to the complex factors spilling over from the civil war in Syria and pressure from

other neighbors, decades of U.S. political and military intervention, coupled with inadequate

social reconciliation programs, have significantly contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. More

bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations,

and a continual cycle of violent intervention.

The current state of crisis and the breakdown of state institutions in Libya provide another stark

example of the failure of a militarized strategy. Like Libya, the air strikes in Iraq will ultimately

fail to build and maintain sustainable peace in the long-term.

We understand and deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians. However, even

when tactics of violent force yield a short term displacement of the adversary’s violence, such

violence toward armed actors is often self-perpetuating, as the retributive violence that flares up

in response will only propitiate more armed intervention in a tit-for-tat escalation without

addressing the root causes of the conflict. We see this over and over again. It is not “necessary”

to continue down this road of self-destruction, as Pope Francis called the hostilities of war the

“suicide of humanity.”

There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect

civilians and to engage this conflict. Using an alternative frame, here are some “just peace”

ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also

begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention. To begin, the United

States should take the following steps:

– Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of

grievances that contribute to the global justification for the Islamic State’s existence

among its supporters.

– Provide robust humanitarian assistance to those who are fleeing the violence.

Provide food and much needed supplies in coordination with the United Nations.

– Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the

international community on diplomatic efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq.

Ensure a significantly more inclusive Iraqi government along with substantive programs

of social reconciliation to interrupt the flow and perhaps peel-back some of the persons

joining the Islamic State. In the diplomatic strategy, particularly include those with

influence on key actors in the Islamic State.

o Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. The conflicts in Iraq and

Syria are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the

Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and

expand the agenda to include regional peace and stability. Ensure Iran’s full

participation in the process.

– Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict

and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties. For example, experts1 have

suggested strategies such as parallel institutions, dispersed disruptions, and economic


– Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through

the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil

revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.

– Bring in and significantly invest in professionally trained unarmed civilian

protection organizations to assist and offer some buffer for displaced persons and

refugees, both for this conflict in collaboration with Iraqi’s and for future conflicts.

– Call for and uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. U.S. arms and

military assistance to the government forces and ethnic militias in Iraq, in addition to

arming Syrian rebel groups, have only fueled the carnage, in part due to weapons

intended for one group being taken and used by others. All armed parties have been

accused of committing gross violations of human rights. Along with Russia, work with

key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to take independent

initiatives and meaningful steps towards an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict.

– Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability

at the community level. Deep sectarian and ethnic divisions have long been exacerbated

by various factors, including the U.S. military intervention in 2003. Sustainable peace

will require peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts from the ground up.

With hope, deep-felt prayers, and a splash of courage, we ask you to move us beyond the ways

of war and into the frontier of just peace responses to violent conflict.

Susan T. Henry-Crowe, MDiv.DD

General Secretary

General Board of Church and Society

The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Executive Director

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Executive Secretary

Friends Committee on National Legislation

General Secretary

American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu

Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. James Moos

Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Director, DC office

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Eli McCarthy, PhD

Director of Justice and Peace

Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Executive Director

Franciscan Action Network

Stanley J. Noffsinger,

General Secretary

Church of the Brethren

Sr. Patricia Chappell

Executive Director

Pax Christi International

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Rev. Michael Neuroth

Policy Advocate for International Issues

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM

U.S. Regional Superior of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX

Provincial Superior of Xaverian Missionaries in U.S.

Very Rev. Domenico Di Raimondo, M.Sp.S.

Provincial Superior of Missionaries of the Holy Spirit

Christ the Priest Province

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

María Teresa Dávila, PhD

Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics

Andover Newton Theological School

Bill Barbieri, PhD

Professor of Religion and Culture and Moral Theology/Ethics

Catholic University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Professor of Theology

Chicago Theological Seminary

Sr. Marianne Farina, CSC

Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Laurie Johnston, PhD

Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies

Emmanuel College

Rev. Priscilla Eppinger, PhD

Associate Professor of Religion

Graceland University/Community of Christ Seminary

Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought

Georgetown University

Fr. Ray Kemp, S.T.L.

Theology Professor

Georgetown University

Francis X. Clooney, SJ

Parkman Professor of Divinity

Director, The Center for the Study of World Religions

Harvard University

Betty Reardon, PhD

Founding Director Emeritus

International Institute on Peace Education

Maureen O’Connell, PhD

Associate Professor of Theology and Chair of Department of Religion

LaSalle University

Amir Hussain, PhD

Professor of Theological Studies

Loyola Marymount University

Kathleen Maas Weigert, PhD

Carolyn Farrell, BVM, Professor of Women and Leadership

Loyola University Chicago

David Cortright, PhD

Director of Policy Studies

Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Notre Dame University

Margaret Pfeil, PhD

Assistant Professor of Theology/Ethics

Notre Dame University

John Berkman, PhD

Professor of Moral Theology

Regis College, University of Toronto

Gerald W. Schlabach

Professor of Theology

University of St. Thomas

John Sniegocki, PhD

Associate Professor of Christian Ethics

Director, Peace Studies Minor

Xavier University

Kathryn Getek Soltis, PhD

Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education

Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics

Villanova University

Suzanne C. Toton, EdD

Theology and Religious Studies Department

Villanova University

Rev. Louis Arceneaux, C.M.

Promoter of Peace and Justice

Western Province, Congregation of the Mission, USA

Fr. Robert Bossie, SCJ

Priests of the Sacred Heart

Fr. John A. Coleman, S.J.

Society of Jesus, Saint Ignatius Parish

San Francisco, CA

Fr. John Converset, MCCJ

Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

North American Province of Comboni Missionaries

Doreen Glynn, CSJ

Justice Coordinator

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province

Bro. Michael Gosch, CSV

Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Director

Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Jude A. Huntz, Director

Office for Peace and Justice

Archdiocese of Chicago

Bro. Brian McLauchlin, SVD

Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Promoter

Bro. Frank O’Donnell, SM

Bro. Jerry Sullivan, SM

Rev. Dr. Peter A. Wells

Justice LED Organizer

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Bro. Stan Zubek, SM

– Secretary of State John Kerry

– U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

– Department of State, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall

– USAID, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Nancy Lindborg

– Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Shaun Casey

– Special Assistant to the President for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers