Churches step up campaign against war

ABC AM - Friday, October 4, 2002

LINDA MOTTRAM: The Government of John Howard is facing a rising tide of criticism over its position in favour of joining any US (United States) military action against Baghdad.
On the back of harsh assessments already from former Australian Prime Ministers, retired military leaders and the RSL, now, Australian churches are stepping up their campaign against the Government's stand.
Debate is currently underway within the Anglican Church on how it should respond.
The synod of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania has already decided.
It has unanimously voted to oppose any military action in Iraq at all, branding it immoral.
Further, the church is considering a campaign of civil disobedience.
Our report this morning is from Nick Grimm.

NICK GRIMM: During the Vietnam conflict Australia's conscientious objectors who refused to fight were thrown in jail.
Now members of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania are also preparing to take a stand on principle against war.
So opposed are they to Australia being drawn into military action that 500 members of the church synod have voted unanimously to prepare for a campaign of civil disobedience.
Synod moderator, the Reverend Alistair Macrae says many church members would simply refuse to pay a war tax, if the Federal Government tried to introduce one.

ALISTAIR MACRAE: This was a gathering of about 500 people. Not fanatics or anything like that. They're just church people, farm people, business people, young people, old people, men and women. Just feeling grave concern and feeling powerless in the face of all the sabre-rattling going on.

NICK GRIMM: This is not the first time Australian churches have raised their concerns about war in Iraq.
A month ago the National Council of Churches wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him not to support US led military action in Iraq without United Nations backing.
But the Uniting Church now feels other methods are needed to ensure John Howard gets their message.
The Reverand Macrae again.

ALISTAIR MACRAE: You get to the point in these things where you think there is so much letter writing and advocacy you can do and if it's not getting anywhere maybe the next step is to consider some sort of symbolic action.
I must say I was taken aback by the very quick convergence of the entire synod in support of this proposal. In fact it was even extended. The motion came that the church would investigate whether if the war tax was imposed whether the Uniting Church members might consider being civilly disobedient and refusing to pay the tax.

NICK GRIMM: It's a kind of conscientious objection.

ALISTAIR MACRAE: Yes it's a conscientous objection.

NICK GRIMM: Would they be risking going to jail if they refused to pay their taxes? That's what it amounts to doesn't it?

ALISTAIR MACRAE: I guess so. If people witheld a legally required tax then they would have to be prepared to suffer the consequences.

NICK GRIMM: The Uniting Church is not alone in it's anti-war stance.
The Anglican Church is also worried about war, and will be considering what action it might take in the days ahead.

The acting Primat of the Anglican Church in Australia is the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Watson.

PETER WATSON: I don't think we've been starry-eyed about what's going on in Iraq. But we don't believe and I don't believe that war ever solves anything.

LINDA MOTTRAM: The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Watson who is also presently the acting Primat of that church. Nick Grimm with that report.

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