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DOCUMENT: Statement by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia on the beginning of military operation against Iraq

Early in today's morning, the British-American coalition has launched missile and bombing strikes against Iraqi cities. This happened in defiance to the opinion of the UN Security Council, the majority of the world community members and religious leaders who had opposed a military solution of the problems around Iraq.

The Russian Orthodox Church has exerted herself to establish dialogue with the Iraqi leaders. It was immediately before the operation that our delegation together with Russia's Muslims visited Baghdad with a peace mission. This visit testified to the solidarity of the Russian faithful with the Iraqi people and showed that the use of force is not to be explained by the confrontation between Christianity and Islam and that this conflict has no religious roots. However, our efforts have proved vain. The military machine has been started up.

The operation has already caused first human victims in Iraq. If the operation continues, they will inevitably grow in number. Civilians, both Muslims and Christians, will die not only of bombs, but also of deprivations that always accompany military actions. It is foreseeable that cultural monuments and shrines associated with the biblical history will be damaged. The hearts of the Russian Orthodox faithful are filled with sympathy for the suffering Iraqi nation: children, women, old, sick and infirm people.

On this tragic day, our Church urges the countries neighboring to Iraq: Not refuse aid to refugees, give asylum to victims and comfort them with your sincere affection.

The Russian Orthodox Church once again calls upon the governments of the anti-Iraq coalition member-states: Stop bloodshed! Make your best to prevent military actions form expanding. Resume peace negotiations. Spare thousands of innocent people. I call everyone, who is capable to contribute to the cessation of war, to make his best to put an end to it as soon as possible.

I offer up my prayers to God that He may establish peace in the Middle East. May the Lord grant us wisdom for settling the situation in Iraq and around this country.

March 20, 2003

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