Methodist Church expresses concern over escalating violence in Iraq

Anthea Cox, Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and SocialJustice:

"The escalating violence in Iraq is giving many Methodists causefor concern.  For those who campaigned against military actionthe current situation confirms their worst fears. 

Recent statements from the President of the United Statescontinue to link the violence of a minority in Iraq with globalterrorist threats.  Many people remain to be convinced by thisargument.  Meanwhile there are real fears that recentoffensive operations carried out by US forces are bolsteringsupport for militant groups. 

The Methodist Church reiterates the importance of the crucialrole of the United Nations in the handover of authority to Iraqiadministration at the end of June."

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, furthercommented:

"There are alarming reports concerning civilian casualties as aresult of offensive military operations in Fallujah. According to some sources, half of the 600 people killed inFallujah in the past two weeks were women and children. 

The coalition forces have stated that they will consider anassault on Najaf to capture Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. While recognising the extremely difficult task of facing thecoalition forces in a hostile environment, we nevertheless call onthe military only to undertake operations when it is feasible todiscriminate between armed militias andcivilian by-standers."