Religious Groups Call for Humanitarian, Economic Surge to Help End War in Iraq

March 7, 2007, 5:00 pm | Posted by

Letter to Congress Urges Lawmakers to address 2007 funding gap for Iraq-related relief and development in Emergency Supplemental

(Washington, D.C.) – In a letter delivered to Congress today, eighteen faith-based organizations joined nationally-respected aid agencies, human rights groups in urging Congress to support an immediate surge in relief and development aid to Iraq. The list of 40 national organizations represents a broad range of constituencies and includes groups that opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq as well as groups that did not.

The letter was initiated by the Iraq Peace and Development Working Group (IPDWG), a newly-formed NGO working group advocating policy improvements to reduce human suffering and conflict in Iraq. The letter’s recommendations reflect broad consensus among national advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, and operational humanitarian agencies involved in life-saving relief efforts in Iraq and the Gulf region.

The groups are asking Congress to halt the decline in aid to Iraq, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group, by adding $440 million to the President’s $99.6 billion supplemental budget request. That would address a critical funding gap of $290 million needed for refugee assistance, resettlement and internally displaced persons. It would also provide an additional $150 million to restore full funding for community-based development, efforts to strengthen Iraqi civil society, conflict resolution strategies, and the advancement of human rights and rule of law.

The letter states: “Through effective relief and development, the U.S. can help improve the social welfare and security of the Iraqi people. Moreover, economic progress that creates meaningful jobs and opportunities for the people of Iraq can play a pivotal role in ending the conflict.”

Recent polls suggest strong public recognition that America’s military role in Iraq is limited in what it can achieve. A CBS/New York Times poll conducted in late February indicates 70% of Americans polled say that the U.S. military cannot do much to lessen the fighting between groups of Iraqis. Top military commanders in Iraq have expressed similar concern. The letter quotes Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, who recently testified to the Senate that, without a military solution to Iraq, success requires progress in the Iraqi political and economic arenas.

The additional funding would represent a small fraction of the supplemental request yet help millions of displaced Iraqis, compensate thousands of families harmed in the conflict, create 100,000s jobs, and support ongoing USAID programs with proven track records.

To read the letter, click here.

Spokespeople available for comment include:

Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church

Please contact Katie Barge at Faith in Public Life 202-481-8147, kbarge@faithinpubliclife.org to arrange interviews with Campbell, Winkler, or sources from other religious organizations that signed onto the letter.

The following are the religious organizations that signed the letter. For a full list of organizations that signed the letter, click here.

Alliance of Baptists

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Call to Action (CTA)

Church of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office

Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)

Franciscan Friars (OFM) Holy Name Province

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church (GBCS-UMC)

Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

National Council of Churches USA (NCC)

NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Pax Christi USA

Presbyterian Church (USA) Washington Office

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

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Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center for faith leaders sharing a call to pursue justice and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization.

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1,000 Christians Gather to Tackle Child Poverty at Annual ‘Ecumenical Advocacy Days’

March 2, 2007, 9:33 am | Posted by

Delegates representing more than 45 million Christians worldwide to address effects of violence, environmental degradation, and globalization

Conference open to media – Interviews with presenters available on request

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fri March 2, 2007– More than 1,000 international human rights advocates and faith leaders will convene March 9-12, 2007, for the fifth annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice Conference. This year’s conference, themed “And How Are the Children,” will include workshops, advocacy trainings and a day of lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to press for greater U.S. support for the world’s most vulnerable young people.

The only event of its kind held in the U.S. that gathers national and international faith and grassroots activists, Ecumenical Advocacy Days is representative of the broader movement of people of faith who believe that poverty is a pressing moral issue that must be addressed as a top priority on the U.S. agenda.

The more than 50 co-sponsors of this year’s conference are internationally-known faith-based and policy advocacy organizations, including Church World Service, the National Council of Churches USA and Children’s Defense Fund. Organizers hope the conference will contribute to a growing recognition among Americans of all religious backgrounds and political stripes that ending child poverty is an essential element to our nation’s pursuit of the common good.

A host of international speakers will present at plenary sessions and workshops on current crises in the U.S., Latin America, the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East. Presenters and participants will also focus on specific domestic and global child poverty issues including:

• unaccompanied children crossing the border;

• fixing the No Child Left Behind Act (a special NCLB pre-event will take place March 9);

• dangers of global warming on children now and in the future;

• effects of current Middle East conflict on the region’s children;

• impact of current U.S. security policies on children;

• ill effects of odious debt on African countries and free trade agreements on poor workers and families in Latin America; and

• escalating violence and human rights abuses in Burma and the Philippines.

On Monday March 12, participants will meet with lawmakers to petition greater U.S. support for three key domestic and international issues focused on children, calling for:

• Congressional action in 2007 that ensures affordable, comprehensive, accessible and quality

healthcare for all children living in the U.S.;

• comprehensive, mandatory and aggressive anti-global warming legislation that will protect future

generations; and

• adoption by Congress of new “spending for Peace, Not War” priorities.

WHEN: March 9-12, 2007

WHERE: Doubletree Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

WHO: Key speakers include:

• Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund

• Chris Hedges, New York Times reporter and author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

• Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, North American President for the World Council of Churches

• Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

• Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA

• The Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., D.D., Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Caloocan, the Philippines

• Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Duremdes, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines

• Francis Ng’ambi, Malawian economist, consultant with the Economic Justice Network of the Fellowship of the Christian Councils in Southern Africa

Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community and its recognized partners and allies, grounded in biblical witness and our shared traditions of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Our goal, through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for learning and witness, is to strengthen our Christian voice and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues. For a complete program agenda and list of speakers, visit: http://www.advocacydays.org. For a list of sponsors, visit http://www.advocacydays.org/sponsors.

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U.S. Religious Leaders Just Back from Iran Available to Talk About Recent Meeting with Iranians Officials, Including President Ahmadinejad

March 1, 2007, 10:33 am | Posted by

Return Coincides with US Decision to Hold Talks with Iran

[Washington, DC] – Members of a delegation of U.S. religious leaders who returned Monday from a week-long trip to Iran with a proposal for direct, government-to-government negotiations between the United States and Iran are available for interviews and comment. The delegation, which is the first U.S. religious group to meet with an Iranian president in Iran since the revolution in 1979, was encouraged by ‘s declaration that his country does not intend to develop nuclear weapons and his willingness to enter into direct, face-to-face talks with the United States government.

Next week, the delegation will meet with members of Congress including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John Warner, among others.

Jim Winkler is the General Secretary of the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS), the international public policy and social justice agency of The United Methodist Church. He has led delegations to the Middle East, Iraq and Germany seeking peaceful solutions to global conflict and traveled throughout the world to support the justice work of the United Methodist in Africa, Asia and Europe. He has preached and led workshops and training events in Russia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, and is a frequent spokesperson for the justice work of The United Methodist Church to the national and international media.

“The Iranians don’t want war. Every political and religious leader we met with said Islam forbids the possession or development or use of weapons of mass destruction of any kind including nuclear weapons,” he said. “They would love to talk to the U.S. if there was but some sign of goodwill.” –Jim Winkler

Jeff Carr is Chief Operating Officer of Sojourners and Call to Renewal after 17 years of ministry as the Executive Director of the Bresee Foundation in Los Angeles, CA where he was responsible for the overall direction and development of this faith-based organization that provided comprehensive programs for over 3,500 low-income youth and families each year. He was raised in the Church of the Nazarene and followed in his fathers footsteps by becoming an ordained minister in the church.

“We must begin to write a new narrative together. One that comes out of humility, mutual respect, and shared understanding. I am convinced it is the only path for a true and lasting peace with justice.” –Jeff Carr

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Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center for faith leaders sharing a call to pursue justice and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization.

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U.S. Religious Leaders Report Back on Meeting with Iranian Religious Leaders

February 23, 2007, 5:31 pm | Posted by

Delegation Is Scheduled to Meet Iranian President Saturday

A delegation of U.S. religious leaders returning from a week-long trip to Iran will hold a Washington, DC press conference on Monday, February 26 to brief reporters on their meetings with the Iranian president and Iranian religious leaders. This is the first religious delegation to meet with an Iranian president in Iran since the revolution in 1979.

WHEN: Monday, February 26, 9:00am.

WHERE: National Press Club, Peter Zenger Room, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC

The 13-person religious delegation traveled to Iran to encourage a dialogue in the hope of averting a war. The group is scheduled to meet with the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Saturday before flying back to Washington. The religious leaders will brief members of Congress on the result of their trip in the coming weeks.

In meetings with Christian and Muslim leaders in Iran, the delegation talked about how people in Iran and the U.S. can help reduce the tension between their two countries.

“I am convinced that the only path for a true and lasting peace with justice will require that we find a way to tell our stories and to have our stories heard,” said Jeff Carr, Chief Operations Officer of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. “Then we must begin to write a new narrative together, one that comes out of humility, mutual respect, and shared understanding. May God help both our nations and peoples to begin the healing and reconciliation process so we may avoid war and build that lasting peace.”

“Interfaith dialogue strengthens our own theology,” said Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana of the National Council of Churches and a member of the U.S. delegation. “This is a new paradigm that has arrived out of many years of engaging in dialogue.”

Delegation members also discussed with government officials the political situation inside Iran, Iranian foreign policy, and Iran’s nuclear energy program. After the visit the group will meet with members of the U.S. Congress, informing them of what the delegation heard from leaders in Iran and suggesting ways to move toward lessening current tensions.

The delegation that visited Iran from February 17-25, included representatives of Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Catholic, and United Methodist churches, churches as well as the National Council of Churches, Pax Christi and Sojourners/Call to Renewal in Washington, D.C.

For more on the delegation, visit www.irandelegation.org

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Thousands from Across America Worship and Protest to End Iraq War

February 20, 2007, 4:36 pm | Posted by

Christian Peace Witness set for March 16th; Worship to be Followed by Procession to White House and Peaceful Protest

Washington, D.C. —– (Tuesday, February 20, 2007) Thousands of Christians—Evangelicals, Protestants, and Catholics— from across the country will worship together on March 16th to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War with public prayer, a candlelight procession through the center of the nation’s capital, vigils in cities and towns throughout the country and a protest culminating with 1500 Christians surrounding the White House with the light of peace. The Christian Peace Witness, organized by a broad cross section of Christian denominational peace groups and organizations, is expected to be the largest peace gathering of Christians expressing opposition to the war since it began four years ago.

Prominent religious leaders and peace activists, including Jim Wallis, Celeste Zappala, Bernice Powell Jackson, and Raphael Warnock will speak at a worship service, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C on Friday, March 16, 2007.

“The mistaken war in Iraq can only be mercifully ended, in ways that cause the least damage to everyone involved: the Americans and the Iraqis, the volatile surrounding region, and a world longing for security,” says Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal and bestselling author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.

After the worship service, thousands of Christians will make a two-mile candlelit procession to the White House, where a solemn, prayerful vigil will dramatize the Christian call for peace in Iraq. Following the vigil, hundreds of participants, including many clergy members, will encircle the White House with a band of candlelight to express their conviction that the teachings of Jesus call unequivocally for an end to the war.

“Jesus taught us that nothing could be more impractical, or more foolish, than responding to violence with more violence,” says Rick Ufford-Chase, convener of the national steering committee of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. “Congress needs to act swiftly and boldly to challenge the escalation of the war in Iraq. We will pray, worship and protest on March 16th and send a message to our leaders and the world that peace and reconciliation stand at the very heart of the Christian message and our respective traditions.”

Thousands more Christians yearning for peace will organize simultaneous rallies and vigils throughout the country. And to date, 20 bus loads of peace pilgrims are traveling from cities throughout the country.

WHAT: Christian Peace Witness

WHEN: March 16, beginning at 7 p.m. (admission tickets required, visit www.christianpeacewitness.org)

WHERE: Washington National Cathedral

WHO: Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal

Celeste Zappala, a peace activist and United Methodist mother whose son was killed in Iraq in April 2004

Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, President for the North American Conference of the World Council of Churches

Rev. Raphael Warnock, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.

SPONSOR ORGANIZATIONS: Adventist Peace Fellowship, American Friends Service Committee, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Brethren Witness, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Christian Alliance for Progress, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church, Faith in Public Life; Kairos: A Time to Speak, A Time to Act; Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA, National Council of Churches, No2Torture, On Earth Peace, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, Pax Christi USA, Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Protestants for the Common Good, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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Please visit Christian Peace Witness for Iraq for more information

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