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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 28, 2003
1:08 PM
CONTACT: Pax Christi USA
Johnny Zokovitch, 352-219-8419
Mike Jones, 814-964-0078

Religious Leaders Meet With U.N. Secretary General to Urge Humanitarian Mission to Iraq;
Rev. Jesse Jackson, United Methodist Bishop Joseph Sprague and Pax Christi USA National Coordinator Dave Robinson Ask Kofi Annan to Support Bombing Stoppage for Aid Delivery
 
NEW YORK - March 28 - Reverend Jesse Jackson, United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague and Pax Christi USA National Coordinator Dave Robinson met with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan Thursday morning to urge the U.N. to support a call for the delivery and facilitation of humanitarian aid. In a private meeting with the Secretary General, the three interfaith leaders discussed the looming humanitarian catastrophe facing the Iraqi people as a result of the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Annan informed the group of religious leaders that "five million Iraqis are without safe water and sanitation right now. Ten million need food and one million children are chronically malnourished." As the war intensifies, the devastation to the civilian population of Iraq is expected to deepen and spread.

Due to what they see as a state of paralysis in international diplomacy, the three religious leaders approached Annan with the offer that religious organizations and NGOs could step forward to broker a cease-fire and respond to the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. They proposed that a coalition of religious leaders and NGOs could work together to avert further destruction and limit the damage to both the environment and the infrastructure of Iraq. Jackson also emphasized the role that religious leaders could play in seeing that both sides treat POWs according to the rules of the Geneva Convention and protect noncombatants.

"From the beginning, the Catholic church has stated that this war lacks justification across the board," said Robinson. "At this point, we need to shift our analysis to how this war is now being waged. We demand reports on the use by U.S. forces of depleted uranium, cluster bombs and the number of civilian casualties."

During the meeting, the Secretary General thanked the leaders for the role that religious organizations have played in trying to stop the war against Iraq. Annan thanked Robinson for the efforts of his organization, Pax Christi USA, in attempting to bring Pope John Paul II to the U.N. to make an appeal to the conscience of the nations of the Security Council.

The meeting at the U.N. occurred just 15 hours after Robinson and Sprague were released from police custody following a nonviolent action in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

"It's of the utmost importance that those of us who wish to stop this war use every tool at our disposal," said Robinson. "We need to be in the streets and in the halls of power."

Pax Christi USA is the national Catholic peace movement, reaching over half a million Catholics in the United States. Our membership includes over 140 U.S. bishops, 550 religious communities, 450 parish sponsors and 250 local groups. Pax Christi USA is a section of Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace movement with consultative status at the United Nations.

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