Jim WallisAs the diplomatic dance with Iran continues, the rumors of war are increasing. European Union and Iranian diplomats have been meeting this week in intensive negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. News stories have been optimistic on the one hand, noting that the U.S. government was holding off on pushing for sanctions against Iran while the talks continued and the possibility that Iran might be willing to stop its enriching of uranium in return for economic incentives.

On the other hand, several news sources have reported moves toward possible U.S. military strikes against Iran. A recent Time magazine cover story asked, What Would War Look Like?. It noted that “from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran … may be impossible to avoid.” But in the current situation, with the violence in Iraq spiraling out of control, a U.S. attack on Iran would likely be a disaster, simply adding more fuel to the bloodshed and creating more terrorists. As the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism released this week concluded, “The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world….” An attack on Iran would make that resentment far worse.

As a statement by 21 U.S. military, national security, and foreign policy officials – released in August – said, “We strongly caution against any consideration of the use of military force against Iran.The current crises must be resolved through diplomacy, not military action. An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region ….”

On Tuesday, Sojourners/Call to Renewal and Faithful Security released a statement signed by more than 100 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders urging “Words, Not War, With Iran.” I participated in a press conference with Dr. Susannah Heschel, Dr. Louay of the Islamic Society of North America, Brian McLaren, and Dr. Trita Parsi of the Iranian-American Council to discuss the statement with reporters.

Our statement said, “While we agree Iran should not support terrorism or obtain nuclear weapons, we come together as religious leaders to urge that the U.S. engage in direct negotiations with Iran as an alternative to military action in resolving the crisis.” We reject anti-Semitism and threats of attack against Israel made by Iran, but believe that the only solution to the nuclear issue is a negotiated settlement. And we root our concern in our belief that “The teachings of the Abrahamic tradition command us to keep human life sacred and to act as stewards of creation. We consider all weapons of mass destruction — whether nuclear, biological, or chemical — immoral and unacceptable for use in any circumstances.”

Our statement concludes, “The moral wisdom of many religious leaders and the pragmatic warnings of many military leaders now offer a common message – “Words, Not War, With Iran.” I invite you to join us in signing this statement. You can find the complete text of the statement, a list of the signers, and add your name at www.wordsnotwar.org.

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