UCC Collegium of Officers issues statement on U.S. bombing
November 2001

Rory Owens Murray looks at the Manhattan skyline as she holds her 5-month-old daughter, Alyson Rose. Her husband, John, was killed in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack. © Newhouse News Service / Mia Song photo.


Statement acknowledges nation's pain, laments the use of military force, calls for mercy and non-violent solutions to worldwide threat of terrorism

The initiation of military action by the United States against Afghanistan opens a painful and dangerous new chapter in the tragic story that began a month ago in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. As we wept over the images of fallen towers in nearby New York, we now weep over scenes of death and destruction in distant Kabul. As we held our own children close during the frightening hours of terrorist attack, we now tremble for vulnerable children and innocent refugees who are in danger of bombs and starvation. As Christians, we confess that violence has been met by further violence, that we have turned from the way of the Cross to the way of the sword, that God's intentions are once again denied, that the vision of just peace remains elusive in a world fascinated by military might. There can be no joy for us this week, only lament. Lord, have mercy.

Every human being has a right to be free from the threat of terror. The fear we experience is very real, yet as Christians we also know it must not control us. Faithful people will not all agree on how best to provide that security in the midst of a dangerous world. Many members of the United Church of Christ support military action, believing it is the only way to achieve security, for ourselves and for others. While we recognize that the rule of law must be enforced, we have grave reservations about a large scale military response to terrorism by our government and its allies.

In recent years, military campaigns in countless places have destroyed lives and threatened a whole generation of children while leaving in place oppressive regimes. Short term solutions have sown the seeds of future catastrophe as we ally ourselves with the enemies of our enemy, only to discover that we have fed and armed those who would terrorize the innocent.

Meanwhile, we have distanced ourselves from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, have ignored civil wars in Africa, have done little to address the poverty and hunger that is the primary terror for most in the world, and have supplied countless regimes with abundant weaponry. Nothing justifies terrorist violence. The brutal attacks of September 11 cannot be blamed on God or on the failures of our own nation's policy. They remain the responsibility of those who planned and carried them out and they must be brought to justice. Yet we must confess that we have contributed to the poverty, the militarism, and the regional instability that provide hospitable environments and comfortable havens for those who resort to violence. Christ, have mercy.

Our nation's leaders have set a course that meets violence with violence. Our lament over this decision does not deny our grief for those who have died, our love for this land, or the earnestness of our prayer, "God bless America."

But this prayer is also joined by our prayers for all who are put at risk by this course, both those who will be killed in these attacks, and those who carry them out. May our nation's decision to go to war be matched now by a desire to use the even more massive non-violent power available to us to address those chronic conflicts that destabilize the world, to fight the hunger and poverty that kill thousands every day, to find homes for the refugees on every continent, to defend the human rights of all who are oppressed because of their race, their political convictions, their gender, or their religion, and to create hope for families just as precious in God's sight as our own.

May those of us whose baptism marks us with the sign of the Cross bear witness to the way of forgiveness, that we might become signs and instruments of God's design. May we learn again that true security is a gift we receive, a comfort we know in belonging to Christ. And may these tragic days move us to an ever more profound experience of the ancient plea, "Lord, have mercy."

Dale Bishop
Edith A. Guffey
Bernice Powell Jackson
José A. Malayang
John H. Thomas

October 12, 2001