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Church Worldwide: U.S. Must ‘Destroy’ Islamic State, Say Religious Conservatives

A coalition of more than 50 religious leaders led by mostly conservative Roman Catholic, evangelical, and Jewish activists, is calling on President Obama to sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They say “nothing short of the destruction” of the Islamic State can protect Christians and religious minorities now being subjected to “a campaign of genocide.”

“We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief,” the petition reads. “None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force.”

But they say the situation is so dire that relief for these religious communities “cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable” the Islamic State forces.

The petition was organized by Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist. He was joined by a range of other leaders, many of whom are known for their hawkish views on foreign policy.

They include Russell Moore, chief public policy official for the Southern Baptist Convention; Benjamin Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and conservative commentator; Edward Whelan, head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Gerard Bradley, a law professor at Notre Dame; Christian author and commentator Eric Metaxas; Martin Peretz, former editor of the New Republic; and writer Leon Wieseltier.

The signatories call on the U.S. to arm Kurdish forces in the north, which the administration has begun doing after weeks of intense debate over whether such a move would lead to the final breakup of Iraq into enclaves of Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

“We further believe that the United States’ goal must be more comprehensive than simply clamping a short-term lid on the boiling violence that is threatening so many innocents in ISIS/ISIL’s path,” the signers say, using alternative acronyms for the Islamic State. “Nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.”

The statement follows reports that the U.S. is weighing a larger effort to protect refugees, one that could include putting troops on the ground in Iraq.

The petition also comes amid growing calls by religious leaders in Iraq and internationally for the global community to take more concerted action.

The Vatican on August 13 released a letter that Pope Francis wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealing to the world community “to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

While Francis called for “concrete acts of solidarity” by the U.N. and included security forces as part of the solution, he was careful not to promote a military response as the chief means for resolving the tragedy. Other Catholic officials in Rome and Iraq have said the U.S. airstrikes are viewed as necessary and morally justified, but they are leery of actions that could lead to another U.S.-led military campaign.

The letter from the religious activists, mainly Americans, was much more forceful in calling for military action.

At the end of their statement, the leaders, some of whom backed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that led to years of violence, acknowledged that “our own nation is not without responsibility for the plight of victims of ISIS/ISIL genocide.”

They conclude, “The point is not to point fingers or apportion blame, but to recognize that justice as well as compassion demands that we take the steps necessary to end the (Islamic State) campaign of genocide and protect those who are its victims.”

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Just as silly as when the leaders of the CRCNA spoke out so strongly against the Iraq War. While it is legitimate to call for protection of Christians, attempting to influence foreign policy this was is well outside the institutional church's sphere.

Actually, the list of signers of this statement include very, very few institutional church representatives -- maybe two of initial ~sixty-four major signers (see at iraqrescue.org)? -- and even then, the usual footnotes indicating the individual signer does not necessarily represent the organization is included (which I don't give much credence to but still). 

This statement represents far more the product of the organic church (as it should be) than any institutional church.

The breadth of institutional representation in the statement signer list is a bit impressive: Princeton Univ and Law, Oxford Univ, Georgetown Univ, Ctr for Politics & Religion, Univ of Pennsylvania, Manhattan Institute, Portland Community College (my Oregon), American Enterprise Institute, Univ of Maryland, Dortmouth Collete, Emory University, Stanford University, ULLA, Hudson Inst Center for Religious Freedom, NYU Polytechnic, Vanderbilt Univ, Johns Hopkins Univ School of Adv International Studies, Univ of Iowa, Villanova Univer, and Focus on the Family -- among many others, including Michael Mann no less.

No, I wouldn't want the CRCNA to jump onto this particular effort.  It lacks the expertise that is a reasonable prerequisite for doing so, and its own rules (CO Art 28) prohibit it (thankfully in my view).  But it doesn't need to even if it were allowed to.  The organic church is at work here, as it should be, even if in concert with those who don't claim to be part of the church at all.

On the merits of the question, this is complex indeed, but when those on this list combine with the stated position of the Saudis and the expressions of Sec of State John Kerry (no hawk by anyone's imagination), one has to consider whether this may indeed be an Ecclesiastes "time to kill." 

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