Today leaders from the National Council of Churches USA, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and the Canadian Council of Churches met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to discuss the situation in Iraq. The religious leaders asked that the UN support:
* a phased withdrawal of US troops by a date certain
* an end to US attempts to control the Iraqi economy, particularly oil
* a substantial long-term commitment of US funds for rebuilding Iraq
* an internal conference of all relevant parties in Iraq to determine the people, plans and processes to move from the current impasse to Iraqi self-rule as well as an international conference to ensure broad multi-lateral support for the country’s reconstruction efforts
Following the UN meeting the group that talked with the Secretary General held a conference call with religious leaders and reporters. I took part in the call and asked The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, general-secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, what he wanted to hear from President Bush in his address to the nation that will be given later this evening:
Well, I’d like the president to say the next time he’s going to give a speech he isn’t going to do it at the War College, but do it at … some other important venue seeking peace.
My hope is that the president realizes that this is an important opportunity and moment to move with a solution that is an international solution and not a unilateral solution. And that the president is able to even perhaps admit a mistake or two which he has had difficulty doing and agree that at this late hour, moving up to this 30th of June, that very delicate negotiations are being done by (the UN) and that they are taking a lead role in a solution that can’t be seen simply as a US solution, but has to be seen as an international solution.
Click here to download the audio of this part of the conference call.
Among those who participated in the UN meeting were: Reverend Bob Edgar, General Secretary for NCC; Reverend Keith Clements, General Secretary of Conference of European Churches; Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Reverend Cliff Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of Presbyterian Church USA; Reverend Paul Renshaw, Coordinating Secretary International Affairs, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland; Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches.
Church leaders in the United States recently released a Pastoral Letter on Iraq that can be found here.
Update: Click here for the AP story now running on this meeting.
Update: The National Council of Churches has just released a press statement regarding the UN Meeting:
CHURCH LEADERS MEET WITH KOFI ANNAN ON IRAQ, SUPPORT SIGNIFICANT U.N. LEADERSHIP ROLE
May 24, 2004, NEW YORK CITY – Church leaders who met with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan about Iraq today (May 24) said they hoped President Bush, in his address tonight, would state clearly his commitment to engaging the international community in planning for the future of Iraq.
“The increasing chaos in Iraq makes clear that the U.S. government needs to change course,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, who led the 11-member delegation. “We hope President Bush goes public with the U.S. government’s apparent realization that the peace the United States seeks can only come with international participation.”
The delegation included church leaders from the United States, Canada, Europe and the United Kingdom, and had support from the World Council of Churches, Middle East Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches as it went into the meeting with Secretary General Annan.
Religious leaders in the group had opposed going to war against Iraq, Dr. Edgar acknowledged. “But now, people who were for the war and people who were against the war need to come together to find an alternative way out of the current situation.”
The religious leaders’ 40-minute meeting with the U.N. Secretary General came on the day that the U.N. Security Council began discussing a new resolution defining the role of the United Nations in Iraq following the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government on June 30.
“We’ll be watching for indications that the transition to Iraqi sovereignty is genuine and complete,” Dr. Edgar said. “We expect that the resolution will foster the integrity and unity of Iraq, specify who does what in terms of security, and make clear the role of the United Nations.”
Said the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) following the meeting with the U.N. Secretary General, “Clearly the United Nations is ready and able to provide leadership in Iraq. This will be good for the United States, Iraq and the world.”
Said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary for International Relations and Peace, “International involvement is Iraq’s only chance for peace and the United Nations is the international organization rightfully to take that role.”