The great fall debate on Iraq has begun. Several much-anticipated reports on the success of the war (or lack thereof) have started to arrive in the nation’s capital, which will be followed by the most contentious of congressional debates. This week, a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report suggested that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq have remained “about the same” since the Bush administration began its troop “surge” that added 20,000 more combat troops on the ground. It painted a bleak political and security portrait of the situation in Iraq by concluding that Iraq has met only three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress.

Another report, by an independent commission, is due out today, and according to news reports, it will say that the Iraqi police are “incapable” of protecting neighborhoods and that it will be at least 12-18 months before the Iraqi army can maintain the country’s security. Anticipating an epic showdown with Congress, President Bush made an unanticipated visit to Iraq this week to herald the progress he claims his surge had made in places like Anbar province.
Next week, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will report to Congress on the progress of the troop “surge” and the war effort in general. That report promises to catalyze an intense national debate on the floor of the U.S Congress, in the media, and across the nation. Is it time to end the war? If so, how? Or should we persevere until we “win” the war? And what would that mean?
It will be a great debate on what is clearly a life-and-death issue for both Americans and Iraqis. It is a debate in which much is at stake. All next week, this blog will be focusing on Iraq and the future of this war, which has become such a disaster.
But as people of faith, we believe the place to start is prayer. Only prayer can soften hearts and open the way to peace and reconciliation. So, as General Petraeus testifies, we’re planning to match his surge with one of our own – 20,000 prayers for Congress to bring an end to this war.
While the Bush administration has frequently abused the language of religion to justify this disastrous war, a growing number of Christians from across the theological and political spectrum are coming together to oppose it.
Last March, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of this disastrous war, Christians filled Washington National Cathedral to witness to their faith, in opposition to this war. On that occasion, I said:
“I believe it will take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a mobilization of the faith community to end it – to change the political climate, to change the wind. It will take a revolution of love to end it, because this endless war in Iraq is based ultimately on fear, and the Bible tells us that only perfect love will cast out fear. And to cast out that fear, we must act in faith, in prayer, in love, and in hope – so we might help to heal the fears that keep this war going….
“All of this must be wrapped in the power of prayer. Because we believe that God can still work miracles in and through our prayers – and that prayer followed by action can turn valleys of despair into mountains of hope. God has acted before in history and we believe that God will act again through us.”
So we would like to begin this great debate with prayer. Prayers for peace and prayers for the wisdom and courage to end this war in the ways that are most protective of human life, especially of the innocent. Our nation’s political leaders are listening to the faith community as never before. We’ve spoken to several members of Congress who are considering reading a selection of your prayers for peace into the Congressional Record.
Like many of you, I’ve opposed this war from the start, and together we’ve raised a prophetic voice against it–marching in the streets, writing letters, and much more.
We’ll continue to do all of that, but I believe it will also take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. So this week, as we prepare for the debate, we want to offer our prayers to Congress, prayers to members of Congress who even disagree about the war, prayers for wisdom to know and courage to do the right thing.
Will you be a part of this surge of prayer for peace? Click here to let your senators and representatives know that you’re praying for them.
In times such as these, we ought to remember the words of the apostle Paul:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
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