Creating Leadership on Drone Warfare within the Faith Community

The Peace Action Education Fund in Princeton, NJ created the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare (INDW) in 2015 to enable people and institutions of faith to study and take appropriate steps to work for change in U.S. drone warfare policies. Since then, INDW held a national conference for religious leaders on drone warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary, co-sponsored 13 regional conferences on drone warfare, produced five 30-minute films on drone warfare for congregations, and promoted their use across the country.

The next phase of the work began July 15, 2018 and will be completed on February 1, 2021.

During that time, INDW will engage in these tasks:

  1. Recruit two people of faith from each of 30 geographic areas across the United States who will make a commitment until February 1, 2021 to educate institutions and people of faith and enable them to take other appropriate steps to work for change in the U.S. lethal drone policies.
  2. Ensure that the national offices of denominations and religious organizations will find ways to support the persons from their denomination or faith group that make this commitment.
  3. A National Advisory Committee will be created for the period of fall of 2018 to February 2021 to advise and help the staff and the board of the Peace Action Education Fund with the implementation of this project. It will be made up of representatives of national denominational entities and religious organizations. The Advisory Committee will meet periodically by conference call to offer suggestions for the implementation of the project.
  4. Use the Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a national conference held for the Christian community in Washington, DC in April 2019, to help recruit the 60 people of faith.
  5. Hold a three-day national conference for the 60 people of faith and the members of the National Advisory Committee to equip them to do their work effectively.
  6. The Peace Action Education Fund will convene those making this commitment by holding a monthly conference call from October 1, 2019 until February 1, 2021 and will create other methods for supporting the 60 people. 
  7. The INDW will increase the number of congregations screening the videos by working with the staff of denominations and religious organizations and those congregations that have viewed the videos to urge new congregations to show at least one of the videos. 
  8. The INDW will maintain the email list of people of faith who have engaged in work on drone warfare with the religious community.
  9. Continue to operate the INDW website, which provides access to the five videos on drone warfare for congregations, as well as other resources on drone warfare.

June 2018 – Chicago Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare

The Conference on Drone Warfare was held at Chicago Theological Seminary on Thursday, June 7, 2018, co-sponsored by Chicago Theological Seminary InterReligious Institute (IRI) and the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare. It was attended by about 30 people of faith. It explored why many people of faith believe that the use of lethal drones should be limited or ended.

The presenters included:

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson (U.S. Army retired), Former Chief of Staff to General Colin Powell ; Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, Past President, Chicago Theological Seminary; Bishop Richard E. Pates, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines and former chair of the International Justice and Peace Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy

Two films produced by the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare for congregations were also screened.

During the conference, several concerns were expressed about lethal drones, including:

1. Because lethal drones are so easy to use, it is tempting to expand warfare into non-war zones thereby increasing the likelihood that the U.S. will resort to war.

2. Though it is possible to kill terrorist leaders with lethal drones, drones cannot kill an extremist movement. In fact, the opposite is likely – drone attacks increase the determination of the terrorist and increases the number of extremists. There is an expression that says “Kill a terrorist; create ten more.” Drones do not kill violent ideology; they generate hatred and mistrust of America.

3. Though the number of civilian casualties, including children, may be smaller than those resulting from the use of other weapons, the weapon is not as precise as the government claims. As of 2013, Senator Lindsay Graham (R – SC) indicated that there were 4,700 civilians killed as a result of drone warfare.

4. Drones are proliferating. More than 80 countries currently have lethal drones. It is increasingly likely that lethal drones will be used against the U.S. The world urgently needs strong international agreement banning or limiting the use of lethal drones.

5. The use of drones is not transparent. The U.S. government has kept much of this program secret. There is a disconnection between what Americans know and what the government is doing. It is difficult for Americans to publicly criticize drone warfare because they have very little information. When information has been made public because of litigation, policies have changed.

6. The use of drones directly harms attempts to promote human rights and the rule of law by violating international human rights law.

7. Terrorist groups, like ISIS, now use lethal drones.

8. Though drone operators cannot be killed or physically wounded, they are often damaged psychologically and some have been diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

June 2018 – St. Louis Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare 

April 2018 - San Francisco Bay Area Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at the Pacific School of Religion

Speakers: Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, editor and contributor to Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues; Lisa Ling, a former technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force; Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, a Professor of International Relations at Catholic University, the author of several books about peace and faith; Rep. Barbara Lee, the congressperson from the 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes Berkeley and Oakland.

Rep. Barbara Lee speaking at the Bay Area Conference 

March 2018 - Connecticut Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Hartford Seminary

Click here for report, along with photos and videos!
https://www.hartsem.edu/2018/03/interfaith-conference-on-drone-warfare-held-at-hartford-seminary/

October 2017 - North Carolina Conference Against the Use of Drones in Warfare at Duke Divinity School + Trinity United Methodist Church of Durham

Recordings:

Friday Afternoon: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gGItcCnVLAtvxoRE7F4rhnJ7pPDJcyZI/view
Friday Evening: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1V0HXmgsXx9Udib_Pyt1bqKUfv4o-NXVp/view
Saturday: https://duke.app.box.com/s/4onncb2as9olqqq4hea2myiuss000taw

January 2017 - Florida Conference and Action on Drone Warfare at Royal Palm Christian Church

Speakers included: Medea Benjamin, National Director of Code Pink; Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Sect. of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff (2002-05); Cain Westmoreland, Former Drone Operator and Whistleblower.

June 2016 - Seattle Conference: Countering the Humanitarian Myth: Drones and Endless War

Click here for video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkWwz9-tXQc

June 2016 - Landsdale - Faithful Witness in a Time of Endless War; Drone Warfare and God’s Call to Peacemaking

Videos can be found here: https://vimeo.com/channels/icdw/videos

Mentioned in the New York Times here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/magazine/veterans-ptsd-drone-warrior-wounds.html 

April 2016 - New Brunswick - Ethical, Moral, and Faith Implications of Drone Warfare at New Brunswick Theological Seminary

April 2016 – Stony Point Conference

StonyPointCollage

Approximately 80 people attended the Multifaith Anti-Drone Conference at the Stony Point Center from April 8-9, 2016. Above are some pictures from the conference.

Click Here to read a list of action items from the Regional Grassroots Mobilization Session at the Stony Point conference.

February 2016 - Notre Dame Ethical and Policy Implications of U.S. Drone Warfare Conference at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, University of Notre Dame

The Ethical and Policy Implications of U.S. Drone WarfareNotreDameFEB3 2016

Two consecutive panels discussed the moral and legal issues associated with U.S. conduct in the “War on Terror.” The panels featured Cora Currier, reporter for The InterceptJean Porter, John A. O'Brien, Professor of Theology, David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Mary Ellen O’Connell, Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law, Law School; Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution, Kroc Institute, Rashied Omar, Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and Craig Iffland, PhD student, Department of Theology.

November 2015 - Washington, D.C. Briefing

A briefing was held in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC which was attended by many staff members for Senate & House offices as well as members of various DC based faith offices. This briefing was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare, the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare and the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC). See full report here. 

January 2015 Kick-off National Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare - Princeton, NJ

"Our concerns center on the nature of lethal drones as a weapon, namely their use in targeted killings of specific individuals most of whom are Muslims, their impact upon targeted communities, their operation by remote control, and the consequences that drones increase hostilities. As people of faith, we advocate the rigorous pursuit of Just Peace, based on upholding dignity and human rights for all, with resources dedicated to this alternative at a level matching that spent on the current drone warfare program."

Drones Briefing 11 16 15Website

The Peace Action Education Fund of CFPA facilitated the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary from January 23-25, 2015.

The Policy Recommendations from the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare:

IMMEDIATELY HALT LETHAL DRONE STRIKES

The Hebrew Bible states, and the New Testament affirms, "Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:15, I Peter 3:11)

The Quran teaches, "Act justly for that is what piety demands." (49:9)

The Sikh tradition teaches that all of humanity is one family. "The sword may only be used for self-defense or to protect life when all peaceful means have failed." (Guru Gobind Singh, Tenth Guru of the Sikhs)

Unitarian Universalists covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

Pope Francis has said that, "War is madness" and warns that perhaps World War III has already begun, "one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction."

We, the more than 150 religious leaders who attended the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary, January 23-25, 2015, represent many of the world's religions, and the Just War, Pacifist and Just Peace traditions. We are compelled to address our growing concern about the use of lethal drones by the United States and other countries.

Our concerns center on the nature of lethal drones as a weapon, namely their use in targeted killings of specific individuals most of whom are Muslims, their impact upon targeted communities, their operation by remote control, and the consequences that drones increase hostilities. After two and half days of presentations and conversation and in full awareness of the differences in our faith traditions and our beliefs about war, we have come together to issue this statement of recommendations.

1. We call on the Administration to immediately halt targeted lethal drone strikes.

2. We call on the administration to be transparent and accountable on the past use of such strikes by public disclosures including but not limited to:

  1.  Acknowledging strikes conducted
  2.   Accounting for victims
  3.   Explaining official criteria for the "kill list"
  4.  Disclose all legal justification for authorization of strikes
  5.  Detailing the methods of investigating deaths
  6. Disclosing the standards and mechanisms for compensating victims.

3. We call on Congress to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that has been used as a legal justification for the lethal drone program.

4. We call on the President to rescind the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, Joint Special Operations Command, or any other government agency or contractor to use weaponized or lethal drones.

5. We call on the President and Congress to commission an independent study on the impact of lethal drones on drone operators, targeted persons and affected communities to determine the full extent of costs and consequences (including political, economic, social, psychological, racial, and religious) of the use of drones from 2001-present.

6. We call on the U.S. government to pursue a negotiated global ban on semi-autonomous and autonomous weapons systems.

7. We call on the U.S. government to press the international community to abide by and especially hold our allies accountable to the same recommendations as stated here, beginning with an immediate halt to targeted lethal drone strikes.

We call on our leaders to take us off the path of unending war by implementing these recommendations. As people of faith, we advocate the rigorous pursuit of Just Peace, based on upholding dignity and human rights for all, with resources dedicated to this alternative at a level matching that spent on the current drone warfare program.

Conference Coverage

Session One

   

Session Two

   

Session Three

Session Four

   

Session Five

 

Session Six

Montage video of the Quilt made in honor of victims of Drone Warfare

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Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare
Peace Action Education Fund
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