Church groups oppose Iraq action
LONDON, England -- Senior church leaders have added to the opposition in Britain against an attack on Iraq, saying it would be "immoral and illegal."
Several thousand Christians, including the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, signed a petition that was handed to Prime Minister Tony Blair's Downing Street residence on Tuesday.
More than 2,500 groups and individuals, from leading churchmen to theologians and ordinary church members of different denominations, signed the petition condemning an attack.
"It is deplorable that the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war and the threat of war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy, in violation of the ethos of both the United Nations and Christian moral teaching," said the petition, organised by the Catholic group Pax Christi.
The protest follows Monday's NOP poll for Channel 4 television which said 52 percent of those surveyed opposed the use of British troops in an offensive on Iraq, while only 34 percent would support a U.S.-led war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Williams is the highest profile signatory of the petition. The current Archbishop of Wales will become head of the Anglican Church, which has 70 million members worldwide, in October. (Profile)
Known as an outspoken liberal who supports gay clergy and women priests, he has pledged not to shy away from politically "awkward" issues during his tenure which starts in October.
Williams, who was in lower Manhattan on September 11, has criticised the U.S.-led war on terrorism and has condemned sanctions against Iraq.
Writing recently about the war on terrorism, he said: "It is just possible to deplore civilian casualties and retain moral credibility when an action is clearly focused and its goals are on the way to evident achievement.
"It is not possible when the strategy appears confused and political leaders talk about a war that may last for years."
The Bishop of Coventry, the Right Rev. Colin Bennetts, said there was not enough evidence to justify military strikes against Iraq.
He told the BBC that military action "needs very, very good evidence and we haven't actually been presented with that evidence."
He added: "Any war of this kind needs proper justification and it needs to be conducted within the framework of international law. That, I believe, doesn't exist at the moment."
Sister Annaliese, of the Anglican Sisters of the Church, urged Blair to listen to the group and warned: "The British people do not want war."
She told the Press Association: "All around the world conflicts cause generations of suffering and we want to say please don't, please talk, please listen. British people do not want war.
"I think this is my moral duty. We worship the principle of peace and are concerned for all people of all nations and are concerned about the threat of war. Do we really need reminding what the threat of war really means?"
The Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Rev John Perry, said: "I would urge the government to hold off any ...identification with any action that the United States might take at this particular point or in the coming months."
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