OPF’s Iraq Appeal: a letter to President Bush

A Plea for Peace from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America

[note: In March 2003, shortly before the US-led attack against Iraq was launched, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship drafted a letter to President George W. Bush urging him not to initiate war. The letter was signed by numerous Orthodox bishops, priests, monastics, theologians and lay people.]

Dear President Bush,

As Orthodox Christians, we seek the conversion of enemies to friends in Christ. Saddam Hussein is an enemy of the United States and of the people of Iraq, but we declare that there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.

We do not argue against attacking Iraq because of any admiration for Saddam Hussein. He came to office by intrigue and murder, and remains in power by the same means; he is his own country’s worst enemy. The Iraqi people deserve to be rid of him.

The United States is ready to overthrow him by any means, including an attack which would kill thousands of civilians and maim many more, justifying such an attack on the possibility that Hussein’s regime is producing weapons of mass destruction and preparing to use them against America and Israel and their allies.

Because we seek the reconciliation of enemies, a conversion which grows from striving to be faithful to the Gospel, the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good, and fighting an elusive enemy by means which cause the death of innocent people can be regarded only as murder. Individual murderers are treated by psychiatrists and priests and isolated from society. But who heals the national psyche, the wounded soul of a nation, when it is untroubled by the slaughter of non-combatant civilians?

As Orthodox Christians, we find healing in Christ, Who made us responsible for His sacred gift of life. God created us in His image and likeness, and we best reflect Christ — Who neither killed anyone nor blessed anyone to kill — by loving, helping, and forgiving.

Friends help each other do good things, not evil things. We find echoes of holy friendship in the world’s unfolding reaction to events in Iraq.

Many nations traditionally allied with America — along with many patriotic Americans — oppose an invasion of Iraq. They see how difficult a position the US will assume by attacking Iraq, and seek instead a renewed program of weapons inspection.

Iraq’s closest neighbors are far from supportive of the course the United States is pursuing, even though they are aware of Saddam’s shameful, destructive regime. Not having rallied to America’s side does not mean that they support Saddam.

An attack on Iraq will be seen by many as an attack on all Arabic and Islamic states. America, despite the rhetoric, is perceived as seeing itself under attack by Islam. America helped install and maintain the despotic Shah of Iran, but withdrew its support when Iran became an Islamic republic (itself undemocratic in many ways). Now America is seen as the largely uncritical supporter of Israel, against the interests of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian. Bombing Iraq will confirm these perceptions among Muslims.

An attack by Saddam on any nation would be viewed as proper cause for a military response to Iraq by the attacked nation and its allies, as was the case with Kuwait. This may not be good, but it is true. Saddam now attacks only his own people, and they need help — but not the “help” of being killed in an effort by other countries to bring about “regime change” in Iraq.

“Pre-emption” (the notion that one nation may attack another because of what it might do) is philosophically, ethically, and pragmatically perilous. After all, an enemy may return the favor. Once “pre-emption” is established as a valid principle for international relations, nations which invoke that principle will have no conceptual shelter.

If the world can be convinced that it’s possible to work peacefully to make life more livable for all, we will all be better off. This is the reconciliation we hope for as Christians among individuals. Can it not happen among nations, between Iraq and its neighbors, and for all the good people of the world?

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship calls on the United States and the United Nations to follow diplomatic paths predicated on mercy, honesty, and justice, and to seek peacefully negotiated resolutions to the impasse in Iraq.

We implore Christ, Who is our peace, to bless every endeavor directed toward our complete reconciliation with each other, and with Him.

The Council for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America:

John Brady, Jim Forest, David Holden, Daniel Lieuwen, John Oliver, Deacon John Oliver III, Alex Patico, Sheri San Chirico, Monk James Silver and Renee Zitzloff

A partial list of other signers as of 19 March 2003:

Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, Orthodox Church in America, External Affairs

Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Bishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America

Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada, Orthodox Church in America

Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Administrator of Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in the USA

Bishop Basil of Sergievo, Diocese of Sourozh, Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain

Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain

Rebecca Alexander , member, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Nashville, Indiana

Fr. Paisius Altschul, St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, Kansas City, Missouri

Hierodeacon Amvrosi, Communaute de St Serafin de Sarov, Rawdon, Quebec

Sadie Barchini, Vice President, Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Timothy Beach, director, Agape School; Reader & lay missionary, Orthodox Church in Taiwan

Carol Bebawi, Centre for the Study of Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations, University of Birmingham, member of St Aidan & St Chad parish, Nottingham, England

Fr. John Behr, Associate Professor of Patristics, St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Alexander Belopopsky, Programme Executive for Europe, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland

Carmela Biggs, R.N., case manager, Raphael House, shelter for homeless families, San Francisco, California

Brother Pierre Blais , ThD, Monastic Society of S. Silouan the Athonite, OCA, Canada; Instructor, Dep’t of Religion, University of Toronto; Orthodox Church in America representative, Justice & Peace Commission, Canadian Council of Churches.

Rev. Ted Bobosh, priest, St. Paul’s Orthodox Church, Dayton, Ohio

Hildo Bos, Acting President, Syndesmos: the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth; member, St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Dr. Peter Bouteneff, Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology, St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Marie Boyko LaGuardia, member, St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, Denver, Colorado

V. Rev. John Breck, Professor of Bioethics and Patristic Exegesis, St. Sergius Theological Institute, Paris, France; Director, St. Silouan Retreat, Charleston, South Carolina

Catherine Brockenborough, Esq., attorney, Nashville, Tennessee

Rev. Marcus C. Burch, St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church, Greenville, South Carolina

Prof. Sheila D. Campbell, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, Canada

Fr. William Christ, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Brother Christopher, Hieromonk; Brother Elias, Monk; Brother Stavros, Monk, New Skete Monastery, Cambridge, New York

Fr. John Chryssavgis, Professor of Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Emmanuel Clapsis , Dean and Professor of Dogmatics, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Gregory Cook, writer and teacher; member of Holy Resurrection Church, Tacoma, Washington

Fr. Michael Dahulich, Dean, St. Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary, So. Canaan, Pennsylvania

Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, Oakton, Virginia

Fr. Demetrios Demopulos, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Helen Breslich Erickson, Lecturer in Liturgical Music, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

John H. Erickson, Dean, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Fr. Dragan and Mirjana Filipovic, St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio

Fr. Thomas FitzGerald , Th.D., Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Hilarion Frakes, St.John of Kronstadt Orthodox Mission, Reno, Nevada

V. Rev. Thomas Gallaway, St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church Lexington, Kentucky

Fr. John Garvey, priest of the Orthodox Church in America; Commonweal columnist; New York City

Fr. Paul Gassios , St. Thomas the Apostle Orthodox Church, Indiana

Eleni Geanon , MA, Director of Alumni Relations Office, Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Hieromonk Alexander Golitzin, Associate Professor of Theology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Rev. Anastasios Gounaris, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

Archimandrite Michael Graves, Maison Orthodoxe, Petion-Ville, Haiti, West Indies

Deacon James Gresh, Diocese of the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America, Canton, Ohio

Fr. Alexander Golubov, Academic Dean, St Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania

Fr. Stanley Harakas, retired Professor of Orthodox Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Gregory Havrilak, Associate General Secretary, Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, New York City

Fr. Stephen C. Headley, priest, parish of St. Stephen and St. Herman, Vezeley, France

Dr. Jurretta Jordan Heckscher, cultural historian, writer, and member of St. Mark Orthodox Church, Bethesda, Maryland

Fr. Oliver and Matushka Lorie Herbel, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York.

Fr. Mark Hodges, St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church, Lima, Ohio

Seraphim Alton Honeywell, Warden, Russian Parish of the Annunciation, Oxford, England

Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Chris Horattas , Board Member, St. Nicholas Orthodox School; member, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Akron, Ohio

Fr. Stephen Hrycyniak, Associate Pastor, Saints Cyril & Methodius, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fr. David Hudson, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America & Canada, Alpharetta, Georgia

Hegoumen Irenee, Communaute Monastique de St Serafin de Sarov, Rawdon, Quebec

Father Frederick & Presbytera Carol Janecek, Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Demetra Velisarios Jaquet, M.Div., member of St. Catherine Greek Orthodox, Greenwood Village, Colorado

Fr. John Jillions, St. Ephraim Orthodox Church, Cambridge, England

Victoria Jones, OCA Focus Curriculum Team, Parishioner of Holy Trinity, Overland Park, Kansas

Joan Kakascik , Ed.D., Psychologist, Parishioner of Christ the Saviour, Paramus, New Jersey

Fr. George E. Kalpaxis, retired priest, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Baltimore, Maryland

Barbara Karol, parishioner, Christ the Saviour, Paramus, New Jersey

Valerie A. Karras, Th.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Greek Patristics, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri; member, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri

Fr. Robert Kennaugh, St Nicholas Church, Narol, Manitoba, Canada

Nikola D. Kostich , M.D. and Carol M. Kostich , members of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

Charlie Kroll, Chief Financial Officer, Hellenic College/Holy Cross Seminary, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Bratso Krsic, Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Butte, Montana

Fr. Alexander Kuchta, pastor, Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Palatine, Illinois

Paul Ladouceur, webmaster, ‘Pages Orthodoxes La Transfiguration, Rawdon, Quebec, Canada

Archpriest George Larin, Rector, Parish of the Russian Orthodox Holy Virgin Protection Church, Nyack, New York

Kevin Lawrence, Chair, String Department, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of North Carolina; Choir Director, Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church, Greensboro, North Carolina

Dr. Violet E. Leathers, Associate Professor- Emeritus, College of Education, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio

Fr. Brooks Ledford, Director of San Antonio Catholic Worker House, priest of the Orthodox Church in America, attached: St. Anthony Orthodox Church, San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Philip LeMasters, Professor of Religion, McMurry University, Abilene, Texas

Rev. Gregory Long, Saint Anthony Orthodox Church, Butler, Pennsylvania

Claude Lopez , Language Professor, Switzerland

Serge R. Lopoukhine, Parish Treasurer, Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Church, Nyack, New York

Dr. Andrew Louth, Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, England

Fr. Timothy Lowe, priest, SS Peter & Paul Church, Meriden, Connecticut

Nun Macaria, St. Xenia Metochion, Indianapolis, Indiana

Anne Glynn Mackoul, Princeton, New Jersey

Fr. John Manuel, Richmond, Virginia

Fr. Lawrence Margitich, Santa Rosa, California

Mother Mary Ann, Presentation of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Monastery, Canton, Ohio

Frederica Mathewes-Green, author, Baltimore, Maryland

Daniel C. Mathewson , Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio; teacher, St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian School, Mogadore, Ohio

Joe May, director, Matthew 25 House of Hospitality, Akron, Ohio

Mother Brigid McCarthy, St. Moses House, Kansas City, Missouri

V. Rev. Rade Merick, Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church, Steubenville, Ohio

Dr. Paul Meyendorff, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Fr. Thomas Moore, priest, Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, West Columbia, South Carolina

Fr. Elijah Mueller, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Jamaica Estates, New York

Fr. Thomas Mueller, Dean, Chicago Deanery, Orthodox Church in America; pastor, Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Presbytera Gina Mueller, Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Very Rev. John Nehrebecki, Dean of New Jersey, Orthodox Church in America

Fr. Anthony Nelson, rector, St. Benedict Russian Orthodox Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; director, Oklahoma Orthodox Christians for Life/Oklahoma Pro-Life Action Network

Evangeline Newton , Director of the Center for Literacy, University of Akron; member, Annunciation, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Akron, Ohio

Rick M. Newton , Chair of the Modern and Classical Languages Department, Kent State University; member Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Akron, Ohio

Archpriest Michael J. Oleksa, Dean, St. Innocent Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska

Archpriest Sergei Ovsiannikov, rector, St. Nicholas of Myra Russian Orthodox Church, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Fr. George C. Papademetriou, Associate Professor of Theology, Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Harry Pappas, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Alexander Patico, Senior Program Manager, Institute of International Education

Archpriest Stefan Pavlenko, Orthodox Church of All Russian Saints, Burlingame, California

Rachel Catherine Peters, M.Div., Orthodox Church of St. John the Russian, Ipswich, Massachusetts; Department of Internet Ministries, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Fr Michael Plekon, professor, Sociology/Anthropology, Program in Religion & Culture, Baruch College of the City University of New York

Fr. Victor S. Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Washington, D.C.

Fr. Theodore Pulcini, Associate Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

Dr. Albert Raboteau, Professor of Religion, Princeton University, New Jersey

Fr. Patrick Radley, rector, Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Great Walsingham, England

Fr. Geoffrey Ready, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Mother Raphaela, Abbess, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, New York

Archpriest Basil Rhodes, rector, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Saratoga, California

Dr. Gabriel Jay Rochelle, teacher, Saint Sophia Theological Seminary, South Bound Brook, New Jersey

Jessica Rose, choir director, Russian Orthodox parish, Oxford, England

Fr. Dmitri Ross, St.Dunstan Orthodox Parish, New Zealand

Fr. Yakov Ryklin, St. Mary Magdalen Orthodox Church, New York City

Archimandrite Michael Rymer, Stockton, California

Fr. Herman Schick, pastor, St George Orthodox Church, Buffalo, New York; president of the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches on the Niagara Frontier

Fr. Paul Schroeder, Chancellor, Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco

Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, parish priest in Boise, Idaho, and president of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund USA

Eleana Silk , Librarian, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Fr. Alvian Smirensky, Schenectady, New York

Susan E. Steinhaus, member, St Paul’s Orthodox Church, Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Catherine Sullivan, member, St. Nickolas Orthodox Church, Charlotte, North Carolina

Philip Tamoush, Orthodox Christian Communications Network, Torrance, California

Juliann and Catherine Tarsney, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

Professor Nikolai S. Tchertkoff , Chestnut Ridge, New York

Fr. Rastko and Vickie Trbuhovich , St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church, Lackawanna, New York

Very Rev. Andrew Tregubov; iconographer; rector of Holy Resurrection Church, St. Claremont, New Hampshire

Fr. Luke Veronis, adjunct professor at Holy Cross Theological Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary

Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, parish priest, Wappingers, New York

Rev. Aleksandar Vlajkovic, St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, Boston, Massachusetts

Fr. Theodoor van der Voort, Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church, Deventer, the Netherlands

Michael and Theodora Ward; editor, Orthodox Outlook; members, Greek Orthodox Church of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England

Martin D. Watt, C.P.A., St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Parish, Dayton, Ohio

Donald L. Westcott, member, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio

Deacon Timothy Wilkinson, Diocese of the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America, Canton, Ohio

Fr. Gregory Williams, St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, Tennesee; administrator, Haitian Orthodox Mission (ROCOR)

Mary Winterer-Papatassos , member, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Xenia Woyevodsky , member, St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Lena S. Zezulin, Attorney, Washington, DC

Dn. Moses Zorea, St. James the Just Russian Orthodox Church, Anchorage, Alaska; attorney-at-law

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America is a branch of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship International.

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