Witnessing for Peace: A Pastoral Letter from Rev. William G. Sinkford

March 14, 2008

Dear Friends, It has been five long years of war and occupation in Iraq. Five years. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers dead; many more wounded and maimed. An unknown number of Iraqi dead, some estimate a million; certainly hundreds of thousands. And millions of Iraqis displaced from their homes.Many of you, like me, have been praying and protesting this war, since before it began. There are some things we know:We know that the invasion of Iraq and the occupation were based on lies.We know that our nation chose to act unilaterally, disregarding the international community.We know that if there had been no oil beneath those sands, and no oil in the region, this war would never have taken place.And we know that this war has squandered the reputation of this nation; squandered the sympathy and solidarity the rest of the world felt for us after 9/11.We know all of these things.We know that the financial cost of this war, ultimately to be measured in trillions of dollars, has made the United States a debtor nation.But perhaps the greatest cost has been to the spirit, to the soul of this nation.We like to see ourselves as innocent. We like to see ourselves as fair, compassionate and kind. We like to see ourselves as freedom-loving and freedom-promoting. The Iraq war has stripped that self-image away from us. Given our actions in Iraq, innocence is no longer an option for us. We have been acting like an empire.There is, of course, a value in faithfulness, a value in continuing to raise our voices. But I have to acknowledge that it would be easy to stay in lamentation. It would be easy to simply critique and complain about the actions…and the inactions of our government.As people of faith, we have to go deeper.Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

“In the peace movement there is a lot of anger, frustration, and misunderstanding. The peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write a love letter.”

What would a love letter to our leaders look like? For me, such a letter would move beyond criticism and search for a ground of hope. For me, such a letter would lift up a vision of what we can become, as well as acknowledge who we are.The first paragraph would call our nation to confession. We need to acknowledge that we made a huge mistake by invading Iraq and that, as a result, the world is a more dangerous place today than it was five years ago. And we need to ask understanding and forgiveness for our mistake.We should tell the world, and ourselves, that we are now willing to move into right relationship with the community of nations. We need to promise to hold the values of justice, equity, compassion, and honesty in high regard. We should promise to search for win-win, not we-win solutions.We might tell the world that religious differences can be a blessing, not a curse. And that the heart of all of the world’s great faith traditions, including Islam, rests in the power of love, not hate.The world should hear from us that the interdependent web of existence does not end at our borders.And I would tell the world, and ourselves, that we want not only to reclaim the image, but to create the reality of Americans as fair, compassionate and kind people. We want to become the kind of people we thought we were.As a person of faith, I know that peace will not come because we simply wish for it, or even pray for it.Peace will only come when we begin to embody it, when we begin to make it real in our personal lives and in the life of this nation.Although we are marking five years of war, this is the season of rebirth and renewal, the season which every year offers the promise of the transformation of despair into hope. This can be a time of hope. This can be a time when we commit ourselves to the creation of the Beloved Community.May we hold the vision of what can be in our hearts. It can see us through.In faith,William G. SinkfordPresident,Unitarian Universalist Association of CongregationsView this message (Windows Media) (Realmedia) (QuickTime)


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