Aid, Not War in Afghanistan: An Open Letter From Religious Leaders to President Obama

The Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Rev. Gradye Parsons, joined other religious leaders in sending an open letter to President Obama calling for “aid, not war, in Afghanistan.”

The letter begins:

As your target date to begin U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan approaches, we are compelled by the prophetic vision of just peace to speak. We represent a diversity of faith communities — ranging from just war to pacifist traditions. As leaders of these communities, some of us initially supported the war in Afghanistan as a justified response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Others opposed the war, believing there were better ways than military force to address the al Qaeda threat. Today, however, we are united in the belief that it is time to bring the U.S. war in Afghanistan to an end.

The letter calls for a renewed emphasis on relief and development aid.

Moreover, this type of aid is most effective — both in terms of the development in Afghanistan, and the cost of the conflict. The past 10 years have shown that we cannot broker peace in Afghanistan by military force; it is time to transition toward a plan that builds up civil society and provides economic alternatives for Afghans. At a time of economic turmoil, as we are presented with difficult financial and budgetary decisions at home, we have an opportunity to invest in aid that both supports the people of Afghanistan, and saves our country much needed funds.

Noting that there are “legitimate ethical and moral issues are at stake in Afghanistan — U.S. national security, protecting the lives of Coalition servicemen and women, protecting Afghan civilians, defending the rights of Afghan women, supporting democracy and, of course, saving innocent lives from the inevitable death and destruction that accompany war.” The writers of the letter state, “We humbly believe there is a better way than war to address these important issues.”

In closing, there is a proclamation of the vision of peace:

We reaffirm our religious hope for a world in which “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”

The 219th General Assembly (2011) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a resolution “On the War in Afghanistan.”

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