At NETWORK we approach the reality of Iraq from the position of faith and friendship.

In faith we embrace Jesus’ call to be peacemakers. We therefore oppose the escalation of combat troops in Iraq. In friendship with Iraqi women whom we have met through a delegation we recently sponsored, we oppose the escalation of troops -- because escalation has already been tried and it has failed. Troop increases in Baghdad in the late summer and early fall of 2006 brought increased violence and death for both Iraqis and U.S. troops. We continue to mourn all of those terrible losses.

In faith, as peacemakers, we call on the President to escalate diplomacy and political negotiations. The only sensible way forward is to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire and political engagement of all interests in Iraq. The President needs to embrace this way as the only viable way of achieving stability in the country and the region.

In faith and friendship with the Iraqis, we know that another key element of stability is economic development. Currently, almost 50% of the population is unemployed—this gives rise to desperation and violence. Additionally, 60% of the population is younger than 25. Only by engaging youth in creating a meaningful future through education and employment will there ever be a stable country. It is not a stopgap measure.

On Wednesday, I and other leaders of Catholic organizations cosigned a statement opposing escalation of the war. As we approach the Martin Luther King Day observance, we are reminded of his words when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He stated: “After contemplation, I conclude that this award, which I receive on behalf of that movement, is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.