Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (25 December 2003, pp.194)

Ando Isamu, sj (Jesuit Social Center)
The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) presents in this publication a very complete report, backed by valuable documents with regard to the Iraq crisis. Iraq continues to dominate the attention of the international as well as the Japanese media and TV, as if the whole world pivots on this issue. The present publication provides good materials for making a sound judgment on the war in Iraq, as well as for analyzing many other similar international situations.
The present book offers an opportunity to listen to the moral voices of leaders in the Catholic Church, in order to be critical of authoritarian political views that try to deceive people by shrewd ways, manipulating the influential mass media and diplomatic channels, the UN included.
The first part is an exposition of the realities behind the US-Iraq crisis to understand the situation and the UN sanctions against Iraq. Many other recent publications have dealt with this: Did Iraq own weapons of mass destruction? Was it directly linked to Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups? What will be the implications of the war against Iraq with the whole Middle East conflict? Are not oil interests and the world imperialistic power of the US the main motives behind the war? What has been the role of the UN Security Council and weren't there alternatives to war?
A main original contribution of this publication is the section concerning the opposition of the Catholic Church to a war against Iraq. Starting from the American Bishops, there is a long section on the role of Pope John Paul II stating his opposition to a war and the concrete steps taken by Vatican diplomacy to avoid war, to the point of sending old French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray to Baghdad, with a personal letter from the Pope to President Saddam Hussein, on 15 February 2003. On the other hand, the book discloses the diplomatic efforts of a leading US Catholic neo-conservative, Michael Novak, to convince Vatican officials of the need of a pre-emptive strike against Iraq by the US. One of by his colleagues, George Weigel, a well-known author that published in 1999 a biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, supported the same view. More than 60 leading US Catholics protested over Novak being invited to Rome, pointing out that his was a dissenting voice.
In the address of Pope John Paul II to the diplomatic corps (13 January 2003), the Pope strongly stated, "No to Death, No to Selfishness, No to War. Yes to Life, Yes to Peace." The religious responses following the address were numerous. Prominent among them were international Caritas organizations, based in several countries, already deeply involved in development and reconstruction work. Bishops' Conferences, like the UK Catholic Bishops, Italian Bishops, Southern African Catholic Bishops, Indian Bishops, Swiss Bishops, etc. made public statements against an Iraq war. The Declaration of the Japanese Bishops (21 February 2003) is not recorded, but Caritas Japan Statement on Iraq (27 February 2003) is published in the book.
The last sections of the book deal with the role of the UN Security Council, the implications of the war in the region surrounding Iraq and in the whole Arab world, Who's who in Iraq reconstructions, the US-led coalition in Iraq now, etc.
The materials offered in the publication cannot be found in the Japanese language and especially for Christians they are important to sharpen our Christian attitudes as citizens. A few days ago, President Bush could not avert meeting with Pope John Paul II to listen to his critical remarks on the Iraq war. Lately, the rich world leaders that gathered at the Summit of the Rich Nations welcomed a unanimous new Resolution just approved by UN Security Council on an independent Iraq government. The insights of FABC's publication are a great help to make a sound judgment on the future realities facing Iraq and the whole Middle East.

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