At church today we prayed for Saddam Hussein because Christians are called to pray even for our enemies. Hussein was a vicious tyrant whose crimes against humanity were many and he was an enemy to all who love peace and worship God - Muslim, Christian and Jew alike. He helped to perpetuate a cycle of violence that finally consumed even him. Global religious leaders from the Christian faith, however, have reacted to his brutal execution with concern.
The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general-secretary of the World Council of Churches, released a statement saying:
At the death of Saddam Hussein, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Iraq. We pray to God to grant this suffering nation the mercy, justice and compassion that it has long been denied. We hope against hope for an end to fear and death that marked Saddam Hussein's rule and that continue now from other hands.
That a leader has been held responsible for one of his crimes is significant. However, the World Council of Churches is opposed to the death penalty. Each taking of a person's life is a part of a larger tragedy and nowhere is this more apparent than in a land of daily killings.
We pray that those who hold power in Iraq now and in the future will create a new heritage of government for its people. May Iraq's leaders pursue reconciliation and mutual respect among all its communities. May Iraq's people be freed from violence and demagoguery, and be able to live where power is held to account and shared under the rule of law. May all parties and all authorities in Iraq now work to stay the hands of any that are tempted to use violence for political gain and all who put themselves above the law.
Iraq and its neighbours need peace, the peace that comes with justice for all.
Ekklesia reports a similar reaction came from the Vatican:
Speaking for the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio that "every capital execution is a reason for sadness even when it involves a person who has been convicted of serious crimes".
He added that "the killing of the perpetrator is not the way to rebuild justice and to reconcile society. Rather the opposite, there is the danger that the spirit of revenge will be fuelled and new violence will be sown."
Today the 3,000th U.S. casualty since the invasion was confirmed. It is possible that over 600,000 Iraqi civilians have now been killed. How many more will have to die before the futility of this crusade is recognized?