Friday, June 23, 2006

Presbyterians condemn terrorism & suicide bombing

The 2006 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has condemned terrorism and suicide bombing, "no matter who is the perpetrator or the target," and has urged that they be formally declared crimes against humanity.

The full resolution and "Rationale" are also reproduced by Ami Isseroff at ZioNation. The Rationale begins:

Terrorist suicide bombings have killed and maimed tens of thousands of targeted innocent civilians around the globe. Bombings have attacked civilian populations in Argentina, London, Lebanon, Jordan, India, Pakistan, Spain, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Bali, the U.S.A. (airplane bombing of World Trade Center Towers and Pentagon), Russia, Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Human rights law and world law should reflect the gross evil of suicide terrorist bombing; and justly condemn the:

Evil of those who would manipulate poverty, brainwash, make financial promises, and use coercion to recruit suicide terrorist bombers;
Evil of those who would design and manufacture belts, shoes, or other concealments used in suicide terrorist bombing;
Evil of those who would finance such efforts;
Evil of those states and organizations that endorse, support, and encourage such activities; and,
Evil of targeting civilians in direct violation of Geneva and Rome conventions.
The resolution itself includes the following:
We instruct our Moderator and Stated Clerk to encourage our leaders in the U.S.A., our ecumenical partners, our interfaith partners, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the United Nations Security Council to make suicide bombing a matter of declaration and legislation under national laws, and to raise this issue with all appropriate international agencies as appropriate.

We hereby pledge and instruct the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Washington Office of the PC(USA), and the Presbyterian UN representatives to take every opportunity to publicly and officially condemn suicide bombings [and terrorism] and to help empower victims of such attacks to be able to bring those who plan and inspire suicide bombings to the bar of international justice. Further to instruct the Stated Clerk to notify the United Nations, the World Court, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other appropriate human rights organizations of the 217th General Assembly (2006)’s position on this topic, and ask for their collaboration in amending international law, especially international criminal court elements of crime; Article 7 entitled “Crimes Against Humanity.”
=> As Ami Isseroff correctly notes:

It should not be a major victory, but rather common sense and decency, to condemn terror. Yet in fact, it is a major victory, because too many groups fail to do so. The Presbyterian Church USA has helped to show the way. Not only that, they have asked for international legislation to include terrorism and suicide bombing. The assembly was more stouthearted in standing up against terror than the commissioners who presented the resolution. The commissioners had recommended disapproval of the resolution. The assembly approved the resolution and added "and terrorism" [....] against the wishes of the commissioners.

[And it is worth mentioning that a quarter of the delegates voted against this resolution condemning terrorism and suicide bombing, so it was obviously not regarded as a non-controversial pro forma declaration.]

=> Isseroff has also correctly argued that clear and explicit declarations of this sort can play an important role in undermining the legitimacy of suicide bombings and other forms of terrorist murder of civilians, as opposed to responses that equivocate about them, make excuses for them, or even justify them. It is also useful to emphasize the fact that members of all national and religious groups have been victims of suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism. One persistent problem has been that even when people are willing to repeat vague formulas criticizing "terrorism" in general, they tend to make exceptions--whether explicitly or in practice--until they feel that their group is being targeted. (In that connection, see for example here and here and here.)

--Jeff Weintraub

P.S. Some appropriate remarks from an exchange between two other correspondents:
Your comment about the Presbyterians pretty much sums up what constitutes a victory these days -- Christians coming out against suicide bombers! Well, I guess that's something. Perhaps tomorrow they will take a courageous stand against beheadings.
P.P.S. See also Further thoughts on the Presbyterian anti-terrorism resolution (Ami Isseroff).