World ecumenical and evangelical leaders, Pope Francis urge U.S. and Iran to wind down conflict

(Photo: © Peter Kenny / Ecumenical News)Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council Churches (L) and World Evangelical Aalliance general secretary, Bishop Efraim Tendero taking notes during a Nov. 4, 2015 meeting in Tirana, Albania.

The World Council of Churches and the World Evangelical Alliance along with Pope Francis called this week for restraint and de-escalation to prevent the conflict between the United States and Iran worsening

Iran had on Jan. 11 admitted that "unintentionally" shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board in the dramatic events unfurling over the current conflict.

On Jan. 3, the Geneva-based WCC urged "maximum restraint" following the U.S. air strike that killed General Qasem Soleimani, Iran's most prominent military commander at Baghdad airport in Iraq.

Then in the aftermath of armed attacks by both the US and Iran, the WCC, whose member churches represent half a billion mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, reiterated its call on Jan. 8 for "restraint and de-escalation" of the confrontation.

"Further escalation and conflict between the United States and Iran can only serve short-term political interests, while threatening the permanent destruction of many lives, communities and precious cultural and environmental heritage," said WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit.

"I appeal to political leaders on all sides of this confrontation to put the interests of the people of the region ahead of their own interests, and to seek peace through dialogue and negotiation rather than confrontation."


On Jan. 10 from Deerfield, Illinois Bishop Efraim Tendero, the Secretary General of the WEA, serving some 600 million evangelicals, said it "deeply grieves the recent acts of aggression and violence" between the United States and Iran, in Iraq.

"The WEA calls on the leaders of these countries, and their allies, to resist hostile rhetoric and to de-escalate the current crisis. We encourage dialogue that prevents further crises and leads to the removal of sanctions which disproportionally impact civilians," Tendero said in his statement.

He noted that the violence playing out in Iraq further threatens the presence of Christians in the country, whose numbers since 2003 have drastically dwindled.

"The protection of Christians and other religious communities in Iraq requires active support for peace and stability from the international community, and puts an onus on the United States and Iran to pursue de-escalation and dialogue.

"Guided by our belief that each human bears the image of God and enjoys inherent dignity, and pursuant to our scriptural responsibility to be ambassadors of reconciliation, we further call on all citizens worldwide, especially evangelicals, to express political and ideological differences in a manner that does not demean, denigrate or de-humanize," said Tendero.

He said, "Through prayer and peacemaking, we will continue to work for peace on earth, as it is in heaven."

In his annual address to members of the diplomatic corps at the beginning of the New Year, Pope Francis said the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States "risks... compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict".

"I therefore renew my appeal that all the interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict and keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restrain in full respect of international law," The Associated Press reported.


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