Interfaith Network on
A project of the Peace Action Education Fund
In cooperation with the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare
For the most recent Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare postings subsequent to June 2015, Click Here!
The Release below was sent and published in Religion News Service
Press Release sent: June 1, 2015
Interfaith Letter Expressing Grave Concerns on Drone Warfare Sent to President Obama and Congress
Twenty-nine faith leaders from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions have sent an Interfaith Letter on Drone Warfare to President Barak Obama and the U.S. Congress.
The signers say it is morally unacceptable that thousands of innocent people have been killed by US lethal drone strikes. The letter also raises concerns that targeted killings by drones lack transparency and accountability. Finally the letter argues that drone strikes do not make Americans safer, but rather aid recruitment by extremist groups.
Elizabeth Beavers, Co-Convener of the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare, noted that many human rights groups and journalists have tried to tally the casualties from drone strikes. A recent study by the Open Society Foundation found that in nine case studies in Yemen, innocent civilians were documented to have been killed in all nine drone strikes.
In their letter, the interfaith leaders point to more effective methods of combating extremism through nonviolent-creative strategies, including sustainable humanitarian and development assistance, and programs that address the political, economic and social exclusion that fuel radicalization.
About Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare
The Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare is a project of the Princeton-based Peace Action Education Fund, and works in cooperation with the DC-based Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare. The Interfaith Network was formed following an Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare held January 23-25, 2015, attended by some 150 diverse faith leaders from across the country at Princeton Theological Seminary. Details of the Interfaith Conference, including the statement adopted by the attendees, can be found at peacecoalition.org/dronesconference.
President Barack Obama
The Office of the President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
June 6, 2016
PDF Letter RE: Targeted Lethal Drones Program
Dear President Obama,
As faith leaders, we feel called to express our continuing concern about the Administration’s drone warfare program. Our faith traditions call us to recognize the goodness and inherent worth of people, and this program that arbitrarily and unaccountably takes human life runs counter to these values, and the values of many Americans.
In recent years, the U.S. lethal drones program has expanded rapidly with little accountability. In that light, we commend the Administration’s recent plan to release a drones “playbook” and reports of combatant and noncombatant casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes. We urge the Administration to fully implement these promises of greater transparency as we raise specific concerns about the U.S. lethal drones program.
First and foremost, we are concerned by the thousands of intended and unintended deaths caused by U.S. drone warfare policy. These numbers are staggering, especially given the questionable legality of covert drone strikes.
Because drone strikes are often preemptive measures against potential threats, targets are often presumed guilty with little or no evidence. The assumption of guilt not only ignores due process, but also strikes targets with total lethality, ignoring protections guaranteed by international human and civil rights law. Drone strikes result in the death penalty for every alleged crime, even when arrest, prosecution, and appropriate punishments could easily be pursued.
In addition, the false claim that drones are precise weapons misrepresents the large number of innocent civilian casualties, including numerous children, caused by drone strikes. God weeps and our hearts ache at such unnecessary loss of human life.
Beyond the immense loss of human life, we are also troubled by the secrecy surrounding the U.S. drones warfare program. As our nation seeks to model democracy for the world, the lack of transparency regarding drone strikes stifles the ability of citizens or legislators to fully judge and understand the impact of lethal drone technology.
Releasing the Administration’s reports is a necessary step to improve transparency and promote accountability, but this must be accompanied by an honest reflection on the efficacy of lethal drone strikes.
Lethal drone strikes place the U.S. in a perpetual state of covert war that reduces national and international security more than it helps. The massive loss of innocent lives generates opposition to U.S. power, fuels recruitment for extremist groups and makes us less safe. Alternatives through including cooperation with international partners on diplomacy, development, promotion of human rights, intelligence sharing, and international policing could address the root causes of extremism without being counterproductive to sustainable resolution of conflict.
While we oppose the Administration’s expansion of the U.S. drone warfare program, the recent promise to disclose information on drones gives us hope. In addition to releasing these reports, we urge the Obama Administration to halt the drone warfare program during its final months in office. While a halt in drone warfare cannot reverse the loss of innocent lives, this step can honor their loss, lessen recruitment by terrorist groups, and increase the chance that future administrations will operate with greater accountability and transparency.
Thank you for your consideration.
Washington Office on Latin America
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
American Sikh Council (ASC)
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Sister Patricia Chappell
Pax Christi USA
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Armenian Church of America
Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn
Disciples Peace Fellowship
Rev. Mary E. Jacobs
Disciples Peace Fellowship
Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice
Franciscan Action Network
Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Director of Partnership Relations
Alliance of Baptists
Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
On Earth Peace
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue
Editor, Tikkun Magazine
Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives
The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss
Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA
Rev. Stephen Copley, Chair
Faith Voices Arkansas
Ervin R. Stutzman
Mennonite Church USA
Interim General Secretary
Church of the Brethren
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Ph.D.
Director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Francis E. Krebs
Ecumenical Catholic Communion
Rev. Michael Neuroth
Policy Advocate for International Issues
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Eric Cherry
Unitarian Universalist Association International Office
Recording of the May 12th Moral Implications of US Drone Policy Conference Call, facilitated by the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare. (Click to listen!)
Recent Educational Events on Drone Warfare
An Interfaith Perspective on Drone Warfare at Six Mile Run Reformed Church, Franklin Park, NJ Sunday April 19
(Pic 1) Rev. Bob Moore, Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) Executive Director speaks with attendees of the Six Mile Run Reformed Church follow-up presentation from the Interfaith Drone Conference at Princeton Seminary.
(Pic 2) Sami Catovic, Director of the New Brunswick Islamic Center (NBIC) speaks with Rev. Osy Neusch, minister of Six Mile Run Reformed Church, where the event was held.
Pictures (in background is Drone quilt supplied by former Army Chaplain Chris Antal to commemorate drone victims) are from a follow-up presentation at the Six Mile Run Reformed Church, spearheaded by CFPA from the Interfaith Drone Conference at Princeton Seminary. There were about 35 in attendance. Special thanks to Robin Suydam, a member of Six Mile Run Reformed Church who attended the Drone Conference at Princeton Seminary and hosted this follow up event.
Recent Articles on Drone Warfare
How Armed Drones Impact Military Officials on the Ground Sermon by The Rev. Chris J. Antal May 12, 2015 (To read complete sermon, Click Here)
CIA's torture experts now use their skills in secret drones program By Trevor Timm Wednesday 29 April 2015 The Guardian
The controversy over the CIA’s secret drone program has gone from bad to worse this week. We now know that many of those running it are the same people who headed the CIA’s torture program, the spy agency can bomb people unilaterally without the president’s explicit approval and that the government is keeping the entire program classified explicitly to prevent a federal court from ruling it illegal. And worst of all, Congress is perfectly fine with it. (To read complete article, Click Here)
Joe Burton: Burr violated laws Letters to the Editor By Joe Burton April 29, 2015 The Raleigh News & Observer
According to the April 28 news story “N.C.’s Burr chided after terror report,” in 2013 Sen. Richard Burr wanted the CIA to find and kill a U.S. citizen, Muhanad Al Farekh.One would think that a U.S. senator would believe in the rule of law and recognize that extrajudicial killing is illegal. He must know it is unlawful to target for killing persons who have not been accused and convicted of a crime. It violates International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. For a U.S. citizen, it also violates the U.S. Constitution, Amendment V. (To read complete article, Click Here)
The Peace Action Education Fund of CFPA facilitated the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary from January 23-25, 2015. Follow-up information is below.
The Policy Recommendations from the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare:
IMMEDIATELY HALT LETHAL DRONE STRIKES
(This statement was adopted by the Alliance of Baptist Churches at their Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia on April 17-18, 2015)
The Hebrew Bible states, and the New Testament affirms, “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:15, I Peter 3:11)
The Quran teaches, “Act justly for that is what piety demands.” (49:9)
The Sikh tradition teaches that all of humanity is one family. “The sword may only be used for self-defense or to protect life when all peaceful means have failed.” (Guru Gobind Singh, Tenth Guru of the Sikhs)
Unitarian Universalists covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
Pope Francis has said that, "War is madness” and warns that perhaps World War III has already begun, “one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.”
We, the more than 150 religious leaders who attended the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary, January 23-25, 2015, represent many of the world’s religions, and the Just War, Pacifist and Just Peace traditions. We are compelled to address our growing concern about the use of lethal drones by the United States and other countries.
Our concerns center on the nature of lethal drones as a weapon, namely their use in targeted killings of specific individuals most of whom are Muslims, their impact upon targeted communities, their operation by remote control, and the consequences that drones increase hostilities. After two and half days of presentations and conversation and in full awareness of the differences in our faith traditions and our beliefs about war, we have come together to issue this statement of recommendations.
1. We call on the Administration to immediately halt targeted lethal drone strikes.
2. We call on the administration to be transparent and accountable on the past use of such strikes by public disclosures including but not limited to:
- Acknowledging strikes conducted
- Accounting for victims
- Explaining official criteria for the “kill list”
- Disclose all legal justification for authorization of strikes
- Detailing the methods of investigating deaths
- Disclosing the standards and mechanisms for compensating victims
3. We call on Congress to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that has been used as a legal justification for the lethal drone program.
4. We call on the President to rescind the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, Joint Special Operations Command, or any other government agency or contractor to use weaponized or lethal drones.
5. We call on the President and Congress to commission an independent study on the impact of lethal drones on drone operators, targeted persons and affected communities to determine the full extent of costs and consequences (including political, economic, social, psychological, racial, and religious) of the use of drones from 2001-present.
6. We call on the U.S. government to pursue a negotiated global ban on semi-autonomous and autonomous weapons systems.
7. We call on the U.S. government to press the international community to abide by and especially hold our allies accountable to the same recommendations as stated here, beginning with an immediate halt to targeted lethal drone strikes.
We call on our leaders to take us off the path of unending war by implementing these recommendations. As people of faith, we advocate the rigorous pursuit of Just Peace, based on upholding dignity and human rights for all, with resources dedicated to this alternative at a level matching that spent on the current drone warfare program.
Possible Activities by the Religious Community to Address Lethal Drones
Read the Media Coverage before and after the Conference Here
Click here for a complete list of speakers at the Conference. All on the link spoke except Dr. Abbas, who was unable to come due to inclement weather. Videos of each speaker's talk are on links below.
To view a promotional video on the conference by filmaker Robert Greenwald, award-winning director of Unmanned; America’s Drone Wars, Click Here.
To view a manuscript of Bishop Pates' talk at the conference, Click Here
To view speaker Dr. Maryann Cusimano-Love's (The Catholic University of America) power point presentation, Click Here
To view a copy of speaker Rev. Susan Hayward's (United States Institute of Peace) drone presentation from the conference, Click Here
To view speaker Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite's (Chicago Theological Seminary) presentation from the conference, Click Here
To view videos of each individual speaker by name, Click Here (Courtesy of Princeton Community Television)
To view a You Tube video of Session One of the conference, Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a You Tube video of Session Two of the conference,Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a You Tube video of Session Three of the conference, Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a You Tube video of Session Four of the conference, Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a You Tube video of Session Five of the conference, Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a You Tube video of Session Six of the conference,Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a montage video of the Quilt made in honor of victims of Drone Warfare, Click Here (Courtesy of Videographer, Wilton Vought)
To view a complete photo gallery of the conference, Click Here (Special Thanks to photographers Anna Savoia & John Lien)
PEACE ACTION EDUCATION FUND
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