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President Sinkford calls for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq

Pastoral letter expresses shame at 'our government's involvement with torture.'
By Tom Stites

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The Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, called Wednesday for “a phased and scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.”

In a pastoral letter posted on the UUA Web site, www.uua.org, Sinkford said, “Before this war began, I spoke out with many religious leaders to question its wisdom. After our government embarked on war, however, it was less clear to me what it meant to stand on the side of love, both domestically and internationally.

“It is now clear to me that the time has come for a phased and scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. I have conveyed my beliefs to the White House and Congress.”

Asked what had prompted his new stand, Sinkford said it was no one dramatic event but a gradual accretion of continuing deaths and insurgency. This led, he said, to an understanding that “we are doing more harm than we are doing good, that the risks of staying are greater than the risks of leaving.”

The UUA president is elected by congregational delegates to the Association’s General Assembly and speaks only for himself, not for the Association as a whole. In 2004, General Assembly delegates approved an Action of Immediate Witness resolution calling for the United States to respect “the end date for a multinational force in Iraq of no later than December 31, 2005, when a newly elected permanent Iraqi government is to be established.”

Sinkford’s pastoral letter called attention to the genocide in Darfur as well as the U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he felt shame “as I witness our government's involvement with torture in our detention centers and all around the globe.”

“I write to you as we approach Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for the Jewish people, a time when they seek forgiveness for past mistakes and commit themselves to living moral lives, striving again to have their names written in the Book of Life,” Sinkford’s letter begins.

“We Unitarian Universalists do not have such an annual holiday of atonement, but I have often wished that we did. I am thinking about atonement particularly during this 200th anniversary year of Hosea Ballou's A Treatise on Atonement. This theological statement of Universalism, asserting that all people are worthy of salvation and may find it if they act in accordance with what they know to be good and moral, has called generations to align themselves so that they stand on the side of love.”

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