Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit headlined the event, called “U.S. Human Rights Policy, Iraq and Palestine/Israel.” He laid out a long list of religious and political objections to the war.
“We must commit ourselves to reject war. Our country must immediately enter negotiations to resolve this crisis,” Gumbleton said.
Gumbleton has taken on an important role in the antiwar movement. He helped to organized an anti-war march in Washington, D.C. in October, which drew over 100,000 protesters.
He also participated in the drafting of a letter given to President Bush by the Council of Bishops in November condemning a possible war against Iraq on grounds that it is morally unjust.
Gumbleton’s speech also marked International Human Rights Day, and he used that day’s significance to point out how the world has strayed from a commitment to the protection of basic rights.
“Today is the anniversåary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We must realize that there is a responsibility to live up to that declaration,” said Gumbleton. “We must remember that war is always a violation of human rights—the right to life, the most important of all rights.”
He said his religious convictions drive his crusade against the war.
“In the Catholic tradition there is a just war theology that shows how you must justify the use of violence,” Gumbleton said in an interview prior to his speech. “The several conditions that are needed to justify war are not met in this instance.”
He also used his personal experience during six trips to Iraq to claim that the war would have disastrous consequences for Iraq.
“No other country has been subjected to such harsh sanctions. We have made it impossible for them to live,” Gumbleton said. “We have destroyed the whole next generation of Iraqi children.”
Gumbleton also emphasized the “futility” of war and predicted that military action against Iraq would lead to more terrorism against Americans.
As an alternative to war, Gumbleton stressed cooperation with other nations and immediate dialogue between Iraq and the U.S.
“We should not be the superpower that imposes its will on other nations,” he said.
Last night’s speech was co-sponsored by the Pax Christi committee of the Harvard Catholic Students Association and SEARCH for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel, a Boston-based advocacy group.