Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.– Matthew 5:9
Jesus’ words, “children of God,” are directed not to those who merely proclaim their opposition to violence and war, but to those who seek better, life-saving ways to resolve inevitable human conflicts.
A United States war with Iran would be an unmitigated disaster, morally and religiously indefensible; U.S. faith leaders must be among the first to rise up, say “No!”—and call for better, more effective, and life-saving ways forward.
Given the escalation of confrontation between the United States and Iran, it is time for leaders from our faith communities to point to more effective ways to transform conflict and to speak strongly against military action that could have enormous human and financial costs, and which could easily and broadly escalate.
With tensions rising over attacks on chemical tankers, the shooting down of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, and threatened retaliatory air strikes, urgent action is needed now, particularly in the context of an unraveling Iran nuclear deal from which the U.S. irresponsibly withdrew.
Therefore, we as U.S. faith leaders demand that our political leaders seek real diplomatic and humanitarian solutions to the current crisis and refrain from military confrontation with Iran.
While we agree that Iran should repudiate terrorism and not increase uranium enrichment, we stand as religious leaders to say that war is not the answer with Iran and is unjustifiable on moral and religious grounds. Such war would likely have disastrous human and environmental consequences, would be strategically unnecessary, and would lead to regional destabilization, increased terrorism, and unsustainable financial burdens..
Since the start of the war in Iraq, the cost of wars in the Middle East has been almost $6 trillion and 500,000 lives lost. As people of faith, we are motivated by the humanitarian needs and suffering of all people, including the Iranians, who are already afflicted by severe sanctions and who would be the principal victims of military confrontation. We urge our political leaders to learn from the failed policies of the past. Preventing another costly and unjust U.S. war in the Middle East is a moral imperative.
It is time for a different approach.
1. The United States should offer to return immediately to the Iran nuclear deal and use the resulting discussions with Iran to engage in an effective diplomatic process for enhancing regional security. In the meantime, we urge the United Nations and governments in Europe and beyond to create a new forum for diplomacy with Iran, an international platform that could help restore the positive momentum created by the Iran deal and address the multiple geopolitical issues at the roots of the current confrontation, some of which were not covered in the agreement.
2. The United States should end its policy of harsh and punitive trade sanctions against the Iranian people. Some targeted sanctions may be appropriate to counter Iranian support for armed militancy and weapons proliferation in the region, but these measures should be multilateral in nature and targeted against Iranian officials, not against the entire economy or the general population.
3. If necessary, establish safeguards for commercial shipping in the Gulf. The international naval patrols that have helped to stem piracy off the coast of Somalia may provide a model. This would require agreement from multiple countries and a willingness by the United States to cooperate with other states in coordinated operations. In an atmosphere of close confrontation, blunders must not be used as a pretext for escalating military conflict.
In all of these actions, we pray that our government will step back from military action as an option in this crisis and instead be guided by political wisdom, international legal standards, and the ethical principles of peacemaking, humanitarianism, and civilian immunity. Threats, tearing up diplomatic agreements, and punishing the Iranian people have not worked and are making matters worse.
We call for a different way.
Our scriptures instruct us to avoid war and to live as peaceably as possible with all. We call on all our religious leaders, theologians, clergy, and laypersons to speak out against the option of war with Iran. Loving peace is never enough; we must stop making war and do the hard work of learning to make peace, which will require courage, calm resolve, and responsible leadership.
Bishop Claude Alexander, The Park Church
Rev. Dr. Chris Antal, Center on Conscience and War
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
Bishop Carroll Baltimore, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
Marian Batho, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston
Sr. Barbara Battista SP, Sisters of Providence
Rev. Dr. Clinton Bennett, Clinton Avenue United Methodist Church
Dr. Ruth Bentley, National Black Evangelical Association
Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, The United Church of Christ
Patty Bowman, Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center
Dr. Amos Brown, Third Baptist Church San Francisco
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
Dr. Jamal Bryant, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church
Sr. Maureen Burke, Sisters of Charity
J Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Rev. Dr. Malcolm Byrd, Philadelphia Forum for Faith, Law and Civics
Dr. Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)
Patrick Carolan, Franciscan Action Network
Sr. Joan Chittister
Dr. Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians
Sr. Mary Ann Connolly, Sisters of Charity
Professor David Cortright, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
Rev. Dr. Kendrick Curry, The Pennsylvania Ave Baptist Church
Rev. Joseph Darby, Nichols Chapel AME Church
Rev. Paula Dempsey, Alliance of Baptists
Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International
Rev. Julian De Shazier, University Church Chicago
Sr. Judith Desmarais, Sisters of Providence
Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, Interfaith Power & Light
Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin, Morehouse College
Richelle Friedman, PBVM Sister of the Presentation
Sr. Mary Delores Gatliff, SND, Sisters of Notre Dame;
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Reformed Church in America
Rev. Ebony Grisom, Emergency Food and Shelter Program
Susan Gunn, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rev. Jeffrey Haggray, American Baptist Home Mission Societies
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Ray of Hope Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lisa Sharon Harper, FreedomRoad.us
Rev. Fred Harrell, City Church of San Francisco
Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness
Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel
Rev. Susan Hendershot, Interfaith Power & Light
Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, Auburn Seminary
Dr. Obery Hendricks,Columbia University
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, Church and Society, The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Nathan Hosler, Church of the Brethren
Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Community Resource Network of Central Florida
Bishop Reginald Jackson, AME Church
Rev. Greg Jarrell, QC Family Tree
Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, Former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom
Kathy Khang, Author
Madeleine Kirkconnell, Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose
Rev. Tony Lee, Community Of Hope AME Church
Rev. Ben Lowe, Evangelicals for Social Action
Ronnie MacDonald, Sisters of Charity
Rev. Carlos L. Malave, Christian Churches Together
Rev. Michael Mata, Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene
Rev. Dr. Walter McCray, National Black Evangelical Association
Sr. Judy McDonnell, Dominican Sisters of San Rafael
Rev. Brian McLaren, Auburn Senior Fellows
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, American Baptist Churches
Jonathan Merritt, Author and Columnist
Bishop W. Darin Moore, AME Zion Mid-Atlantic District
Rev. Dr. James Moos, United Church of Christ
Sr. Maryann Mueller, Felician Sisters of North America
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Michael Neuroth, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dexter Nutall, New Bethel Baptist Church
James Perkins, Greater Christ Baptist Church
Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra, Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork
Dr. Robert Schenck, The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute
Dr. Stephen Schneck, Sojourners
Sr. Doris Schoner
Micky Scott Bey Jones, Faith Matters Network
Sr. Maryann Sherlock, S.C., Sisters of Charity
Dr. Scot Sherman, Newbigin House of Studies
Robert Shine, Pax Christi USA
Dr. Ronald J. Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Jason Smith, Alliance of Baptists
Bishop Marc Stenger, Pax Christi International
Mary Sullivan, Sisters of Charity
Rev. Lori Tapia, Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Adam Taylor, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Al Tizon, North Park Theological Seminary
Sr. Elizabeth Toohig, Sisters of Charity
Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Chasing Justice
Greet Vanaerschot, Pax Christi International
Joette Venneman, Sisters of Charity
Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners
Sr. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, Pax Christi International
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Pastor Colin Watson, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Skinner Leadership Institute
Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, School for Conversion
Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches
Sarah Withrow King, CreatureKind
Rev. Jamila Woods, Jabez Christian Community Church