U.S. faith leaders issue call for diplomacy, not war, with Iran

(Image by Gerhard Traschütz from Pixabay)

Faith leaders across the United States have released a jointly signed statement entitled "Back from the Brink: Faith leaders call for diplomacy, not war, with Iran" as tensions between the old foes have ratcheted up in recent weeks in the Gulf region.

Coordinated through Sojourners, the July 9 statement describes a U.S.-Iran war as "an unmitigated disaster" as well as morally and religiously indefensible.

"Preventing another costly and unjust U.S. war in the Middle East is a moral imperative," said the signatories.

"Given the escalation of confrontation between the United States and Iran, it is time for leaders from our faith communities to point to more effective ways to transform conflict and to speak strongly against military action," they said.

The United States said on July 10 it wanted to create an multinational military coalition to safeguard waters around Iran and Yemen, the BBC reported July 10.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he wanted to "ensure freedom of navigation" in the region, which provides essential trade routes.

The United States has blamed Iran for attacks on six oil tankers in May and June.

Gen. Dunford said the US was talking to various countries with the "political will" to support the plans.

In their statement, the church leaders noted that conflict "could have enormous human and financial costs, and which could easily and broadly escalate."

"While we agree that Iran should repudiate terrorism and not resume uranium enrichment, we stand as religious leaders to say that war is not the answer with Iran and is unjustifiable on moral and religious grounds."

Nearly 200 church leaders had signed the statement embracing peacemaking over war making said Sojourners calling for people to give the statement to their pastors and churches, sending it to your networks, and sharing it on social media.

"Make your convictions clear to a dangerous administration that War Is Not the Answer to Iran" said Sojourners.

The signatures and all the others collected will be shared with media and with the U.S. Congress, and used to tell the White House that people of faith will not support the administration's war. 

Sojourners describe themselves as Christians who follow Jesus, but who also sojourn with others in different faith traditions and all those who are on a spiritual journey.

"We are evangelicals, Catholics, Pentecostals and Protestants; progressives and conservatives; blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians; women and men; young and old."

Their statement urges political leaders to learn from the failed policies of the past. "It is time for a different approach," reads the statement. "The United States should end its policy of harsh and punitive trade sanctions against the Iranian people."

The statement calls for a different way.

"Our scriptures instruct us to avoid war and to live as peaceably as possible with all," the statement reads.

"We call on all our religious leaders, theologians, clergy, and laypersons to speak out against the option of war with Iran."

Among the requests of the statement are:

1. The United States should offer to return immediately to the Iran nuclear deal and use the resulting discussions with Iran to engage in an effective diplomatic process for enhancing regional security. In the meantime, we urge the United Nations and governments in Europe and beyond to create a new forum for diplomacy with Iran, an international platform that could help restore the positive momentum created by the Iran deal and address the multiple geopolitical issues at the roots of the current confrontation, some of which were not covered in the agreement.

2. The United States should end its policy of harsh and punitive trade sanctions against the Iranian people. Some targeted sanctions may be appropriate to counter Iranian support for armed militancy and weapons proliferation in the region, but these measures should be multilateral in nature and targeted against Iranian officials, not against the entire economy or the general population.

3. If necessary, establish safeguards for commercial shipping in the Gulf. The international naval patrols that have helped to stem piracy off the coast of Somalia may provide a model. This would require agreement from multiple countries and a willingness by the United States to cooperate with other states in coordinated operations. In an atmosphere of close confrontation, blunders must not be used as a pretext for escalating military conflict.

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