US military involvement in Iraq has quietly come to an end, but the impact of this engagement will continue long in the lives of many. We are especially mindful of US military personnel who have served and those who are just returning home and their families. May we commit ourselves to their care.
Our Church has been present with our service personnel in combat, on military bases, and in hospitals through our military chaplains. These Disciples ministers volunteer to go unarmed even into the heat of combat, to offer ministry in the most extreme and dangerous circumstances imaginable. I pray for these servants who are among the most courageous and compassionate men and women on the face of the earth.
Now that one war has ended and another is winding down, the mantle of ministry passes to Disciples congregations throughout the United States to welcome veterans home. We offer our gratitude, our prayers, and our support for these courageous people and their families, knowing that the spiritual impact of going to war can be devastating.
At General Assembly this year in Nashville, we passed a ground-breaking resolution, “Moral Injury and Spiritual Care in a Time of War”. The resolution calls on the church to “discern how the moral and spiritual life of individuals, families, and churches are affected by war” and to study our role as faith communities “in addressing moral injury and spiritual care” and meeting “the needs of military personnel, their families, their congregations and communities.”
We now recognize that “moral injury” is always a feature of war, exacerbating post-traumatic stress and all-too-often leading to tragic consequences for combat veterans and their families.
As Church, we have a special role and responsibility to embrace these returning veterans and their families, to welcome them home with deep gratitude for their service and to help them know the love and forgiveness of God.
Today we also remember 4484 American military who have died since the war began in March of 2003 and the 32,226 officially listed as wounded, though the actual number is much higher.
We mourn the loss of Iraqi lives, more than 100,000, according to the Los Angeles Times. We pray for the 2 million Iraqis, including much of the Christian population, who have fled the country – and for the neighboring countries now desperately trying to make room for them. We continue to offer our support through our Week of Compassion offerings and Global Ministries (supported by DMF).
In this holy season of Advent, we remember that Christ, the Prince of Peace, was born quietly in a small village in a troubled Middle East. May we recommit ourselves to the work of Christ, to bring a just peace for all of God’s children, to build, with God’s help, the world of God’s desiring, where swords are beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and nations study war no more.