GENEVA, Switzerland, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The traditional Christian doctrine of the "just war" is to be on the wane, a senior officer of the World Council of Churches suggested Monday as he severely criticized allied military action in Afghanistan.
"Since 1994, there has been an attempt to return to the dialogue between denominations that have affirmed the concept of just war and the traditional peace churches," said the Rev. Dwain Epps, coordinator of international relations for the WCC in Geneva, Switzerland.
In an interview, Epps added, "Most churches are now coming closer to 'just peace' positions." In other words, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed and Eastern Orthodox bodies tend to align themselves with pacifist church groups, such as the Mennonites and the Quakers, according to Epps.
Following the early church fathers, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin defined military action other than in wars of aggression as acts of love. Luther compared a soldier's craft with the work of a surgeon who is cutting off limbs in order to save a body.
Referring to this analogy, this correspondent asked Epps, "Would you not see the military campaign in Afghanistan as something like a cancer operation?"
Epps replied, "Yes, if cancer surgery succeeds you might save the patient. But it can also result in the spreading of the tumor."
Epps' remarks followed a strong affirmation of the U.S. war on terrorism by German President Johannes Rau, who for decades had been a powerful voice of international Protestantism's left-leaning pietistic wing.
But during a visit to the WCC's headquarters last Friday, he called the Anglo-American campaign an "appropriate reaction" to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Epps, on the other hand, suggested that it was counterproductive. He complained that his organization's work on behalf of beleaguered Christians in Muslim countries had been hampered by this war.
"All our efforts have come to naught," he told United Press International, reiterating WCC's previously voiced criticism of the war.
"We do believe that justice must be done," Epps said. If there was enough evidence against him, Osma bin Laden should be tried within the U.S. justice system but not be sentenced to death.
A pastor of the Presbyterian Church USA, Epps told this correspondent, "bin Laden will have to be found and arrested." He insisted, however, that the U.S. government disclose the evidence against him first.
Epps condemned as "Dodge City style" President George W. Bush's instruction to the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate bin Laden if he could be caught alive.
"That's stooping to the level of terrorism," he said. "It doesn't work."
Epps was asked, "And what will you say if bin Laden murdered thousands in another attack with, say, a nuclear device simply because he wasn't taken out?"
He replied, "This would not change my argumentation." Epps added, "An assassination is no deterrent."
At any rate, he said, "The notion of going after one individual (bin Laden) militarily shows a short-sighted perspective with which we strongly disagree."