Christian leaders challenge legality and morality of war against Iraq

 A group of Christian theologians and activists, in collaboration with the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi, today launched an ecumenical declaration on the morality and legality of a war against Iraq. The declaration has among its initial supporters Archbishop Rowan Williams, Bishop Malcolm McMahon (RC), Bishop Thomas McMahon (RC), Bishop Edwin Regan (RC), Bishop Peter Price (Anglican), Bishop John Perry (Anglican) Revd Dr John Vincent, Past President, Methodist Conference of Great Britain, Rev Alan McDonald, Church and Nation Committee, Church of Scotland, Christine Allen, Executive Director - CIIR, Sr Jessica Gatty for the Religious of the Assumption, Sr Rosemary Reilly for Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, Timothy Radcliffe OP, Prof Ursula King, University of Bristol, Rev Bernie McDermot - Director, Columban Fathers, Dr Laurence Hemming, Heythrop College, Rosemary Read, National Justice and Peace Network. The declaration calls for 'a far-sighted and effective response' to the problem of terrorism through the processes of international law. It also argues that a clear distinction must be made between the 'war on terrorism', which is an act of political rhetoric, and any proposed military campaign against Iraq. It draws attention to the historical situation in Iraq and to the on-going suffering of the Iraqi people, and it argues that the UN Charter precludes any pre-emptive strike against a sovereign state, no matter how great the perceived threat might be. The declaration supports the reintroduction of UN inspectors to Iraq, but it also calls upon the world's nuclear weapon states, including Britain, to honour their own obligations to conclude negotiations aimed at the abolition of nuclear weapons. It expresses 'grave concern' over recent threats to use nuclear weapons against Iraq by the British Secretary of Defence, Geoffrey Hoon. The declaration ends with the conclusion that 'an attack on Iraq would be both immoral and illegal', and it calls upon the international community seek peace not through war, but 'through the transformation of structures of injustice and of the politics of exclusion'. The declaration will be circulated for signature among Christian clergy, academics and parishioners, with the intention of giving a collective Christian response to the present crisis in international relations, before being presented to Mr Tony Blair.