News Release Contact: Bryan Zises or Marilyn Katz 312-822-0505
December 1, 2002, CHICAGO - In an unprecedented action, the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, which is comprised of chief leaders of Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Protestant, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Jewish and Islamic communions, today made public a letter to President Bush opposing the war with Iraq. More than thirty members of the Council, which represents nearly four million people, signed the letter.
Reverend Paul Rutgers, the Executive Director of the Council of Religious Leaders, says that the Council felt compelled to take action in the face of what it perceives to be a hasty and hopefully unnecessary war. "The focus of the Council is primarily on local Chicago matters, but in this instance our members uniformly believe that our obligation as religious leaders required us to speak out against this war."
Bishop William Persell, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and current President of the Council, read the letter, stating, "We believe that there is ample time and latitude for pursing alternatives that could avert warfare, saving untold thousands of lives."
Rabbi Ira Youdovin head of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, also quoted from the letter. "We still lack compelling evidence that Iraq is planning to launch an attack. Nor have diplomatic pathways been exhausted."
Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church said "The world's only superpower must strive to be a nation that promotes peace with justice." President Bush must "lead the world in a new commitment, which will offer long-term stability in the Middle East and around the globe," he said.
Many other religious leaders spoke on behalf of their memberships, urging President Bush to avoid "a costly, dangerous and destructive war." They also drew attention to America's responsibility to provide guidance and material assistance essential to overcoming economic and social conditions. "The world's only military superpower must strive to be a nation that promotes peace with justice."
The full text of the letter to President Bush is as follows:
President George W. Bush The White House Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. President:
We are sending you this letter on behalf of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. The Council is composed of chief leaders of the Greater Chicago area's Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic communions and institutions. The churches, synagogues and mosques represented around our table embrace nearly four million men, women and children. Our seminaries prepare clergy and lay teachers for service in the Greater Chicago area, and throughout the world. The Council embraces a broad diversity of theological, ideological and political orientations. It is a microcosm of American religion as it exists in a great city that lies in the American heartland.
In years past, the Council has frequently been unable to find consensus on the role of military action as an instrument of peace. Some of our constituent institutions supported Operation Desert Storm; others did not. Some endorsed the use of force in Afghanistan; others urged alternative means to combat terrorism. Once again, we are confronted by the possibility of our nation going to war, and once again we find ourselves seeking to discern the will of God in this most grave of matters.
Some members of our Council hold to the faithful judgment that war in its very nature is an affront to God and can never be justified. Some believe that war can be justified, but only under the most rigid of conditions. Among them are members who are convinced that the despotic regime that governs Iraq has offered sufficient grounds for military action against it. However, it is the judgment of the Council that in the present situation conditions justifying war have not been met.
We still lack compelling evidence that Iraq is planning to launch an attack. Nor have diplomatic pathways been exhausted. We believe that there is ample time and latitude for pursuing alternatives that could avert warfare, saving untold thousands of lives.
Moreover, a singular focus on war draws attention from America's responsibility to provide guidance and material assistance essential to overcoming economic and social conditions that destroy human dignity. The world's only military superpower must strive to be a nation that promotes peace with justice. We ask you to lead our nation and the nations of the world in a new commitment which will offer long-term stability in the Middle East and around the globe.
We commend you for bringing the issue of Iraq to the United Nations and for your assurances that war can be averted and remains among the last options our nation might elect. We urge you to continue working with our allies and other nations to achieve greater security in the region while avoiding, if at all possible, a costly, dangerous and destructive war.
We join you in praying for the peace of America, and for world peace.
Respectfully yours, for the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago
Bishop William Persell, President of the Council, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago
The Rev. Paul H. Rutgers, Executive Director, Council of Religious Leaders, Executive Presbyter Emeritus, Presbytery of Chicago
And also signed by the following members of the Council as of December 1, 2002