The war will be telegenic, so the eyes of the world will sit and watch videogame-like pictures of destruction. Claims and counterclaims will be broadcast 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, many of the already needy in our global village will be ignored.
I despair that Tony Blair, the leader of my own country, seems determined to go to war. While agreeing with and supporting him in so much of what he has done, I cannot agree with him here. I will leave those of you who are citizens of other countries to reflect for yourselves on the policy being followed by your government, and your reaction to it.
I am excited that the prophetic word of God has been clearly heard from two Anglican Church leaders—Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury—in their opposition to a war.
Other Christian leaders have probably been just as prophetic, but their voices rarely hit the headlines of British media.
Where are the other prophetic Christian voices speaking out against this looming disaster?
Why is it that we seem to be able to find the money to wage a military war, but not to wage a campaign against world hunger? Why have millions died from HIV-AIDS in Africa in recent years, but we cannot provide the resources to educate and prevent? Why have millions died in wars, using expensive weaponry purchased from manufacturers on another continent? Why?
We need an epiphany, an opportunity to see things from another perspective. And just as the Magi turned from Herod in an attempt to avoid bloodshed, we need to do the same.
I honor people like my father who, 60 years ago, were not afraid to go against the flow, take a stand and say quite unequivocally that violence and war were wrong. My dad, who died five years ago, was a conscientious objector in World War II. Even though his work position prevented him from being called up to the military, he insisted that he be allowed to state his opposition. He paid quite a price, being deferred for promotion in his government job for over a decade after the end of the war.
Those of us who pray for peace and oppose violence and war probably have an added responsibility to prepare for its impact on so many.
War in Iraq will bring a stream of refugees flooding over borders into neighboring countries. Non-governmental organizations, such as Baptist World Aid, will be expected to play their part in the housing, feeding and eventual resettlement of these folk. That is why we are talking with Baptist agencies and other partners to see what role we can play. We will pray and prepare for a generous outpouring of compassion from our Baptist family around the world, so that we can help the innocents caught up in this conflict.
The war will also impact those many miles away from Iraq, who are already suffering because of war, drought, floods and famine. The war will be telegenic, so the eyes of the world will sit and watch videogame-like pictures of destruction. Claims and counterclaims will be broadcast 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, many of the already needy in our global village will be ignored.
The villagers in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo will continue to wonder why no one is concerned about the war that has engulfed them. The people of the Cote d’Ivoire will wonder why no one is concerned about the suffering in their country because of civil war. And many Liberians who had sought refuge in the Cote d’Ivoire from conflict in their country will wonder when help is coming.
While we are citizens of our own country, we are also citizens of the whole world—and of God’s Kingdom.
So as Christians we need to be prophetic, pray and prepare.
Paul Montacute has been director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, since 1990.