Iraq may be rich with oil revenues, but its people are still sick, hungry, and dirt poor. The international economic sanctions, in effect since before the Gulf War in 1991, have punished the poor, while leaving Iraq's rulers in power with a potent, well-fed military machine. Despite the humanitarian aid allowed by the United Nations' oil-for-food program, UN agencies report that 30 percent of Iraqi children under 16 are malnourished. As many as 3.5 million people are at risk for communicable diseases from ruined sewage and water systems. Many medicines are not allowed into the country. Iraq has one of the world's highest rates of death for infants and one of the lowest rates for overall life expectancy. Christian churches and relief agencies—some for tactical and others for moral reasons—recently have stepped up their advocacy to end the embargo because it has been a failure in bringing political reform to Iraq.

Call for Compassion

"You call it sanctions or embargo, but in reality it is injustice to the most extreme degree," says Archbishop Kassab of the Chaldean Church of Basra, Iraq. "Our people are suffering deeply, greatly, and harshly."

Asa Durian, Archbishop of the Armenian Church of Baghdad, questions the morality of sanctions:

"Pursuing political and economic aims through causing pain and suffering for people is not a very moral attitude."

Several U.S. churches and relief organizations—including the Mennonite Central Committee, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, and the Christian Reformed Church—have formed a coalition called Compassion Iraq to press for an end to UN sanctions.Ecumenical agencies such as the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Middle ...

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