It should not be a major victory, but rather common sense and decency, to condemn terror. Yet in fact, it is a major victory, because too many groups fail to do so. The Presbyterian Church USA has helped to show the way. Not only that, they have asked for international legislation to include terrorism and suicide bombing. The assembly was more stouthearted in standing up against terror than the Social Justice Committee which received the commissioners resolution. The Social Justice committee
had recommended disapproval of the resolution by a vote of 29 to 22. But the the assembly approved the resolution by a vote 75% in favor, and added "and terrorism" (in brackets below) against the wishes of the committee.
The resolution adopted by the 217th Presbyterian assembly states:
We, the 217th General Assembly (2006) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) declare that any suicide bombing, no matter who is the perpetrator or the target, constitutes a crime against humanity.
While international law, through various treaties and international consensus affirms the criminality of such acts when linked to a government, it is crucial that the church and the world affirm the culpability of individuals and groups that assist in carrying out suicide bombings [and terrorism] through financial or logistical support and that civil or military authorities who fail to exercise adequate powers of control over perpetrators and fail to take appropriate measures, be held accountable. The international community and faith community as a whole are obligated to prevent and call for international judicial prosecution of all those aiding and abetting these crimes.
We instruct our Moderator and Stated Clerk to encourage our leaders in the U.S.A., our ecumenical partners, our interfaith partners, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the United Nations Security Council to make suicide bombing a matter of declaration and legislation under national laws, and to raise this issue with all appropriate international agencies as appropriate.
We hereby pledge and instruct the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Washington Office of the PC(USA), and the Presbyterian UN representatives to take every opportunity to publicly and officially condemn suicide bombings [and terrorism] and to help empower victims of such attacks to be able to bring those who plan and inspire suicide bombings to the bar of international justice. Further to instruct the Stated Clerk to notify the United Nations, the World Court, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other appropriate human rights organizations of the 217th General Assembly (2006)’s position on this topic, and ask for their collaboration in amending international law, especially international criminal court elements of crime; Article 7 entitled “Crimes Against Humanity.”
(sources: Presbyterian Church USA)
The position of the Presbyterian Church USA should become the position of responsible government everywhere, but it seems many more people will die before this happens. Arab governments and some others have repeatedly torpedoed international action on terrorism.
The rationale given by the assembly for approving the measure is below, and is worth reading.
Terrorist suicide bombings have killed and maimed tens of thousands of targeted innocent civilians around the globe. Bombings have attacked civilian populations in Argentina, London, Lebanon, Jordan, India, Pakistan, Spain, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Bali, the U.S.A. (airplane bombing of World Trade Center Towers and Pentagon), Russia, Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Human rights law and world law should reflect the gross evil of suicide terrorist bombing; and justly condemn the:
Evil of those who would manipulate poverty, brainwash, make financial promises, and use coercion to recruit suicide terrorist bombers;
Evil of those who would design and manufacture belts, shoes, or other concealments used in suicide terrorist bombing;
Evil of those who would finance such efforts;
Evil of those states and organizations that endorse, support, and encourage such activities; and,
Evil of targeting civilians in direct violation of Geneva and Rome conventions.
This resolution builds on our prior General Assembly statements:
• Core Value from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) Social Policy Compilation, Chapter Five: Human Rights: 1977 Statement—Minutes, UPCUSA, 1977, Part I, p. 119.
Whereas, every Christian judgment must begin with confession of our own involvement, both in general and in particular, in evil done and good left undone; and
Whereas, violence done to life or dignity of men and women in any land for any cause, whether by established authorities or those who oppose them, is an offense to God and persons and an injury to the most basic human rights; [emphasis added]
Therefore, the 189th General Assembly (1977):
1. Calls upon all members of the church as Christians and as citizens to concern themselves with all victims of oppression, injustice and terrorism, whether governmental or revolutionary, and seek in solidarity to support such by their prayers, their public witness, and where possible, their personal aid and encouragement; and
2. Directs the representatives of the church to pursue indefatigably through governmental, ecclesiastical, or any other channel open to them in this or other lands this concern, testimony, and commitment of our church; ….[emphasis added]
• The General Assembly has a responsibility to speak out on injustice in the world: (From the ACSWP Social Policy Compilation, Chapter One: Theological Basis for Social Action—“1958 Statement—Minutes, UPCUSA, 1958, Part I, p. 537)
Confessing our faith that God, who is Creator of all things, is sovereign over his creation, and that no area of life—personal, social, political, or economic—is beyond his rule and redemption;
Believing that God, who has spoken in many and diverse ways to his people, and through his people to the world, still speaks today, and that his word, decisively and uniquely revealed in Jesus Christ, is one of both judgment and mercy;
Believing that God’s word and will are today most critically revealed as the Scriptures illuminate the social, political, and economic order, and that his judgment and mercy are more particularly manifest in the struggle for human rights, ….
The General Assembly:
Affirms its conviction that neither the church as the body of Christ, nor Christians as individuals, can be neutral or indifferent toward evil in the world; ….
• The General Assembly’s responsibility is not just national but international. (From ASCSWP Social Policy Compilation, “Chapter Three: International Affairs”
The Presbyterian churches entered the post world war years with a new sense of the “smallness” of the world, and the interrelatedness of its nations and peoples. Issues of international scope have come to occupy a primary place in the concerns addressed by the General Assemblies. General Assemblies have, since 1945, supported action in the fields of foreign policy, ….
• The basic human right is the right to life, and our involvement in support and encouragement of the United Nations is also outlined in ACSWP compilation: “Chapter Five: Human Rights”
• We are grateful that the United Nations, on behalf of the international community, has the mandate and responsibility to promote and protect fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person, including freedom of religion and belief.
Therefore, we affirm that
1. Religious freedom is a universal human right. …
3. Governments have responsibility to promote and protect religious freedom and should
a. give specific protections concerning religious freedom in their official policies, constitution and practices;
b. give full cooperation to the UN in the performance of its responsibilities for protecting human rights; and should not
c. co-opt, manipulate, or constrain religious practice by any persons, groups, or religious bodies except as may properly be necessary for the protection of human rights for all; …[emphasis added]
• Religiously motivated suicide bombing is to not be affirmed as it violates the human rights of others, as shown in 3.c. above.
Summary: This resolution adds specificity and action to our prior commitments to human rights, encouragement of responsible UN law, and makes clear the General Assembly’s position on suicide bombing. It also makes clear that not only are governments responsible for their corporate actions, but nongovernmental, transnational, and other associations of individuals, those who finance them, and those who provide material support should also be subject to international law. International justice is one means of breaking the cycle of attack and revenge among groups of people.
Jan Armstrong, Presbytery of Santa Barbara
Noel Anderson, Presbytery of San Joaquin
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Replies: 1 Comment
Thanks for posting this on your site. I wanted a much stronger statement in support of our friends in Israel, but in a large denomination, progress is made through baby steps.
Noel Anderson, Tuesday, June 27th
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