The first ten days of 2020 have been marked by fear and uncertainty about escalating tensions with Iran.
As we continue to watch the news and pray that this decade is not marked by a war on Iran, it is important to keep a few facts in mind:
- The US assassination of General Solemani was a clear escalation toward war. Criticizing this move by the US does not mean we support Sulemani. Like all military leaders, he was responsible for the killings of thousands. However, his assissination does not make anyone safer precisely because it is an escalation in tension in the US relationship with Iran.
- The assassination of Solemani on January 2, 2020 and the events since are part of a long history of US militarism and intimidation in the Middle East (also called North Africa West Asia, or NAWA).
- Saying that we are against war (in general and in this specific case) does not mean that we do not support US troops. The best way we can support US military troops and their families is by ending war.
- Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to General Colin Powell in 2003, now says, “All across the region, the chaos that we’re looking at was produced by the United States invasion in 2003.” But even more alarming are his claims about who America is today, “America exists today to make war. How else do we interpret 19 straight years of war and no end in sight? It’s part of who we are. It’s part of what the American Empire is.”
War is not the answer. If the US goes to war with Iran–whether it is authorized by Congress or not–it is likely Iranian citizens who will suffer the most death and destruction, as was the case for Iraqis in the Iraq War. It is defense contractors who will benefit from, and indeed profit from, war with Iran. This is why PPF “condemn[s] military action by any party to a conflict, holding it to be usually counter-productive and always contrary to the Christian gospel” (from PPF’s “What We Believe” statement).
So what can we do in this moment? There are several things:
- Contact your representatives and ask them to support diplomacy and an immediate end to all military escalations with Iran. If you know your representative already supports that, call them and thank them for their position and courage.
- Join the Global Day of Protest on January 25 calling for No War on Iran! Organize your church to go to a protest near you. Let us know if you’re planning to go–we’d love to share photos and stories from Presbyterians all over the world!
- If you’re a pastor, preach about peace on Sunday. Most churches hardly acknowledged the Iraq War from the pulpit, even though it was on the hearts and minds of most congregants. It’s time to speak out against violence and war and take action together. Here are a few sermons that you can use for inspiration: Rev. Ben Daniel, “Our Shared Humanity,” ,
But our work extends beyond this moment of crisis. After Iran launched missiles at US bases in Iraq on Wednesday morning that did not harm and were not intended to harm anyone, it seems as though tensions may have calmed somewhat for the moment. However, the threat of war is not gone, and now is the time for strategic organizing to prevent war. There are a few things we can do together to prevent war and violence:
- Support Conscientious Objectors – Support conscientious objectors by providing tools for discernment for young people such as this inventory of conscience for talking about war, violence, and conscientious objection with young people (and check out this resource from the PCUSA about how to become a conscientious objection as a Presbyterian and find more resources from the Center on Conscience and War).
- Learn about Iran and the US’s history of military intervention in the region through this excellent resource called “No War No Sanctions: A Study Group Curriculum to Support Action to Stop War on Iran” created by the Catalyst Project.
- Join the Activist Council of PPF to plan long-term, strategic ways we can respond to militarism and be part of the movement to prevent war. Our next in-person meeting is September 24-26 in Stony Point, NY, and we’ll have some video calls before then as well.
- Become a Peace Church – If you are part of a Presbyterian congregation, join a growing number of churches that are declaring themselves peace churches who are opposed to all war and militarism. For congregations that declare themselves peace churches, it may be easier for young members to obtain conscientious objector status. The process of becoming a Peace Church also helps your congregation to have conversation and take action together against war.