The following statement has been sent to President Bush and members of the US legislature:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." Christ spoke these words not just to the crowd assembled before him, but to all men and women of all nations and all times - including those dealing with international relations in the 21st Century. The current state of affairs between the United States and Iran causes American members of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship to speak out before it is too late to step back from the brink of war.
This is a crisis with larger dimensions. The interests of Israel, China, Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other nations are involved, but the focus of this perilous standoff is a line drawn in the sand between Tehran and Washington. If a solution is not found there, it will not be found.
The current impasse was reached by a road littered with misunderstanding, insults, provocations and meddling. The US helped to overthrow Iran's democratically elected government in 1953, aided Saddam Hussein in his brutal war against Iran during the 1980s, and threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iran in 2006. This is not to ignore transgressions by other nations, especially Iran, such as the taking of hostages in Tehran , systematic violation of human rights within Iran, or recent inflammatory statements by the Iranian government.
Actions lead to reactions in a cycle of ever-escalating hostility. The first step on the way to peace, however, must always be putting one's own house in order. To do that - to show the forbearance and compassion Christ asks of us, rather than the bellicosity of those who "live by the sword" - we urge that the following policies be adopted by our government:
Telling the Truth:
Our leaders should admit that they do not, in fact, know whether or not there is a nuclear threat from Iran, that nuclear enrichment is not in itself an offense, and that human rights abuses have occurred and do occur on our side, not only on theirs. The New Testament makes clear that it is in each human soul that the blessings of God are won: through meekness, mercy, and purity of heart. If - as Abraham Lincoln noted during our Civil War - we would hope to be on God's side, we must avoid deception, spin and disinformation.
The Orthodox Christian tradition of conciliarity (decision-making by the whole Church, rather than a single leader or a small group) can also be helpful in international relations. The US must not just pressure our allies to see the world as we see it, but needs to be prepared to listen to and consider their perspectives.
Moreover, there are many other countries, not on the UN's Security Council or members of the 'Nuclear Club', whose destinies are affected by whatever more powerful nations decide. We need to heed their voices as well.
Seeking Common Ground:
There must be direct negotiations among affected parties. America has legitimate needs; so does Iran. Neighboring nations need to be reassured that they will not be the unwilling victims of regional chaos. The conflict in Iraq , a resolution of the world-wide 'peak oil' crunch and many other challenges would be immeasurably easier with a constructive US-Iran relationship in place.
Commitment to Reducing Nuclear Risk:
So long as some nations claim a right to stockpile and use nuclear weapons in their own self-interest, it is inevitable that other nations will see no reason not to follow suit. Since the recent tests by North Korea, nine nations are known to possess nuclear weapons. As the only country which has used such weapons in war, the US has a special responsibility to work for their reduction and eventual elimination. Realistic humility leads us Americans to see that we have no special claim to the wisdom needed for this reduction. Every nation and all our children are at risk, and all must be part of the solution.
Since the credibility of the US was damaged at home and abroad after we invaded Iraq on the false claim that the Saddam government was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, it is no wonder that there is now a widespread and non-partisan lack of confidence in their government among the American people. Staying the course is a good idea only if the course is right. The recent elections demonstrate a growing consensus that a new direction must be found.
If President George W. Bush desires to forge a legacy of real statesmanship, it is not too late to step back from the brink. With a genuine will to find alternatives to war, they can surely be found.
Have we the will to wage peace?
Partial list of signers of the Iran Appeal:
Bishop Basil of Amphipolis
Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos
Bishop Tikhon, Retired Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West; Orthodox Church in America
David A. Beck
Fr Ted Bobosh,St. Paul Church, Ad junct Professor, the University of Dayton
Dr. Peter Bouteneff,Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology, St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary
Archpriest John Breck
Jim Forest,OPF international secretary
Aaron Haney, MD
Archpriest Stephen C. Headley
Dr. John D. Jones, Professor, Marquette University
Carol M. Karos
Maria C. Khoury, Taybeh, Palestinian Occupied Territories, author
Dr. Kevin Lawrence,Chair, String Department, North Carolina School of the Arts
Allison and Don Lemons, Wichita, KS
Dr. Jacques-Jude Lepine, Media Center Director Profile School
Dr. Daniel F. Lieuwen
Michael Markwick, artist berlin,netherlands
Frederica Mathewes-Green, author and columnist
Joe May, Director, Matthew 25 House, Akron , Ohio
Fr. John McGuckin. Professor of Byzantine Christianity, Columbia University
Archpriest George Morelli,Ph.D., Coordinator, Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Ministry, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese
Joanna Novac, Irvine, CA
Archpriest Michael J. Oleksa, adjunct faculty, Alaska Pacific University
John W. Oliver, Professor Emeritus, Malone College
Fr. Harry Pappas,faculty, St. Vladimir's Seminary
Fr. Michael Plekon, St Gregory the Theologian Church, Professor, Baruch College of the City University of New York
Dr. Albert Raboteau,professor, Princeton University
Mother Raphaela, abbess, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, NY
Sheri San Chirico, coordinator, OPF- North America
Monk James Silver, member OPF-NA Steering Committee
Sbdn. Matthew Spoonemore
James Weave, Bellingham, Washington
Renee Zitzloff,coordinator, OPF Minnesota chapter