We, the members of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), are gravely concerned by the prospect of any further use of force by or against Iraq. We deeply regret that violent force has been used in conflicts involving Iraq in the past, such as Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War. We maintain that history has proven time and again that, once force is used, violence only begets further violence, creating a terrible escalation in the magnitude of destruction. This has never been truer than at the present time, when the potential use of weapons of mass destruction is a grave threat. We strongly oppose any use of violent force to address the issues that the international community currently faces regarding Iraq, and declare that the only path to secure and lasting peace is a peaceful one.
The 20th century has been lamented as the “century of war.” Sadly, however, since the beginning of the 21st century, the world’s hopes for peace have given way to continued conflict and violence. We grieve over the September 11 attacks and subsequent developments, the ongoing terrorist attacks in various locations, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and many other tragic situations far too numerous to list. Many priceless lives have been lost. And no one suffers more than the most vulnerable, the innocent children, whose lives are stolen either directly or indirectly as a result of conflicts. Now, another conflict involving Iraq is threatening to destroy many innocent lives.
Every religion teaches the profound sanctity of human life. The most profound ancient and modern wisdoms of humanity agree that every human life, regardless of ethnicity, nation, religion, or any other individual difference, is endowed with inalienable and equal rights. This self-evident truth compels us to declare that the taking of human life as a means to solve international problems can never be acceptable, regardless of the supposed virtue of the end or aim. We appeal to all members of the international community to submit their policies and practices to this basic truth of human dignity.
In recognition of this universal truth, the United Nations Charter mandates that all nations resolve international conflict through peaceful means. The Charter was born in painful reflection on the appalling horrors of two world wars. Today, the spirit of the UN Charter is more relevant than ever. We endorse it, and continue to call for the peaceful resolution of all conflicts.
We are greatly concerned by the growing legitimization in the international community of the use of violent force to solve disputes, and maintain that this trend indicates a prevailing and dangerous disrespect for the dignity of human life, especially when considering its influence on children. Children are the treasure of humanity, the inheritors of the earth, and the bearers of our common future. However, when we survey the world as it is today, the reality is that, during conflicts, parents teach their children how to attack their opponents, communities send their children to the battlefield as soldiers, and adults implant the mistaken value that the use of violent force to solve disputes is “right” in their children’s minds. These children, as they grow up, will be very likely to exercise violent force, thinking it a legitimate means, and will repeat the same mistakes, teaching their children the same erroneous values.
The GNRC continues to work with passion to build a better environment for children, believing that rejecting all violence and cultivating the love of peace in the hearts of children will lead to the creation of a peaceful world. We cannot emphasize enough that aggressively exercising military action in the name of “right” will further exacerbate the trend toward legitimization of violence, having a grave influence on the hearts of children. We are extremely alarmed by this terrible trend.
As a result of our insufficient efforts thus far, as religious people, to convey a heart of love and mercy to people, deeply regrettable violence has been and continues to be permitted. Recognizing this in a spirit of humility and repentance, we have renewed our commitment to fulfilling our responsibilities as religious people to realize a world of peace. As a first step, members of the GNRC and our supporters participated simultaneously in a worldwide day of prayer on January 28 for a peaceful resolution to the problem of Iraq, and we are starting to take actions to build peace. We call on all the people of the world to work together to prevent any further deterioration of the environment surrounding children, and to create a peaceful world that honors the human dignity of each and every person.
Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC)