A Call by the Bishops of Japan for a Peaceful Solution to the Problem of Iraq


As we bishops have gathered for our 2002-3 fiscal year extraordinary plenary session, international society is […]

As we bishops have gathered for our 2002-3 fiscal year extraordinary plenary session, international society is confronted with the awful choice of how the Iraq problem will be solved: by peace or by war? Simultaneously, everywhere in the world popular demonstrations opposing war as a solution are being held. We, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, wish to proclaim here, in the light of Christian faith and teaching, thoughts about the grave choice confronting international society.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ not only reiterated the command of Exodus, “You shall not kill” (20:13), but went on to forbid anger, hate, revenge, etc. He even went so far as to urge his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:21 ff).

Forty years ago Pope John XXIII proclaimed his encyclical Pacem in terris (Peace on Earth). Let us recall his words:

Men nowadays are becoming more and more convinced that any disputes which may arise between nations must be resolved by negotiation and agreement, and not by recourse to arms… In this age…of atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice.

In his “Message of Peace” both last year and this year, Pope John Paul II recalled these same principles when he stated that the way to achieve reconciliation is not through conflict while at the same time he called for a deeper spirit of forgiveness. Religious persons throughout the world stress this need for peace and mercy.

We, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan, openly declare that our fundamental position is opposition to all war. At present it is alleged that military means are justified as a legitimate self-defense to cope with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Even if the United Nations should declare such a war to be legitimate self-defense, we oppose such a war. (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #2309.)

We are opposed to the use of military power against Iraq. Though it will require great courage and solidarity, we appeal to international society to use all possible peaceful means to solve this problem.

If war is not avoided and Iraq is attacked, many precious lives, including many civilians, will be lost. Moreover, we can easily foresee that the people of Iraq who are already suffering much will suffer even more because of regional strife, armed clashes and economic sanctions. Furthermore, this attack will not only destabilize Iraq but also the entire Middle and Near East. We have no doubt that an attack will not solve any problems; rather, it will create a whole set of new problems.

In addition, we call upon the government of Iraq to abolish weapons of mass-destruction, to cease development of such weapons and to immediately and clearly prove to the world that it has done so.

Moreover, we strongly urge other states to do what we have asked Iraq to do, to completely destroy any and all nuclear and other weapons of mass-destruction they have in their possession.

Our world is facing crucial choices about war and peace, justice and security. Hatred breeds hatred, violence provokes violence; no peace is possible when violence is answered with violence. Precisely now is the time for the world to “break down the barriers of hostility that keep men apart” (Ephesians 2:14). We must grope for a policy of non-violence that will avoid the danger of war and seek peaceful solutions through a diplomacy of dialog and cooperation.

And, should not Japan, which by its Constitution cherishes the idea of peace, have the courage to energetically promote pathways of peace for international society?

International tensions come with globalization and it is the general public that suffers from these rifts. Those victimized are our fellow human beings. We believe that our first obligation is to promote solidarity and activities that will help these victims recover their human dignity. We earnestly desire that the time, capital and human efforts which are universally spent for war be used to erase the worldwide poverty that is the deep-rooted cause of and all-pervading atmosphere enveloping international disputes.

We, the bishops of Japan, offer the above thoughts to all members of the Church in Japan as well as to the people of Japan and all other peoples throughout the world.

Now is the time for us as Christians following the spirit of the Gospel, united with others of good will, to positively promote peace and justice.

Finally, let us pray for world leaders:

God of peace, your people face the threat of war in Iraq. Grant that world leaders, who must make just and responsible decisions regarding peaceful co-existence in international society, may quickly, and without recourse to arms, find a peaceful solution to this crisis.

February 21, 2003
Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan