Fri, 21 Mar 2003

Religious leaders condemn war, call for prayer for Iraqis

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Religious leaders condemned the U.S.-led attack on Iraq as it was an affront to humanity, and called on followers to pray for a quick end to the war so that it would not claim too many casualties.

Ahmad Syafii Maarif, chairman of the country's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, branded the U.S. government as the aggressor against Iraq, a weak country. But he warned Muslims against any retaliatory moves to harm foreigners.

"I am not a defender of Saddam Hussein, but the U.S. government cannot just expel him by attacking Iraq. Bush is a war criminal, and he needs to go see a psychiatrist," he said.

He called on Muhammadiyah followers across the country to pray for the Iraqi people, who would suffer most from the war.

"Let's pray to God to save the Iraqi people, as the attackers of Iraq never listen to us," he said.

Syafii said Indonesian Muslims should not attack any American interests or citizens here, but supported those who rallied against the war and the U.S. government peacefully.

"The antiwar movement is a global movement, also involving Americans. So if we want to protest the war, we must direct it to the U.S. government, and not its people," he stressed.

The U.S. began its attack on Iraq early yesterday with air strikes on Baghdad, despite strong opposition from most member countries of the United Nations.

It is the second American war in Iraq since 1991, when a multinational force led by the U.S. attacked Baghdad in response to its invasion of Kuwait. Many Iraqi people at the time suffered from malnutrition, mainly due to economic and financial embargoes imposed on the country.

Solahuddin Wahid, deputy chairman of the largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the U.S. government had committed "an international crime" for attacking Iraq without UN consent.

"It's a personal war between Bush and Saddam ... it is not a war against Islam," he said.

He also reiterated that Indonesian people must protest the war in a peaceful manner, not by conducting sweeps on foreigners.

When the U.S. government led an attack on Afghanistan in 2001 to hunt for Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., radical groups here had targeted Americans and Westerners in Indonesia.

Rev. Lambe, secretary of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), also condemned the U.S attack on Iraq for reasons of humanity and called on Christians across the country to dedicate this Sunday's mass to the Iraqi people.

"War will always take the life of a human being. This war will have the same impact and hand even more problems to the Iraqi people, who have already suffered from malnutrition for years," he said.

He said that he and other Christian leaders would also join together as a multireligious group to protest the U.S. attack.

The Bishops Council of Indonesia (KWI) also deplored the U.S. attack on Iraq as a war against humanity.

The leaders of various religious groups had campaigned for peace to prevent the U.S. from attacking Iraq, traveling to several countries, including Australia, Europe, and the papal state of Vatican City, to convey their messages of peace.