The leadership of the Catholic religious sisters, brothers, and priests in the United States, England and Wales have joined an Amnesty International effort to urge British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George Bush to take decisive steps to ensure that reconstruction efforts in Iraq are carried out for the benefit of the Iraqi people and will ensure the protection of human rights in Iraq.  In addition, the leaders, representing over 100,000 members of Catholic religious congregations call on the government leaders to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and to quickly return the country to Iraqi control.

 Recognizing the important roles both nations continue to play in the rebuilding of Iraq and the future of the region, the Presidents of the Conferences -- the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), and the Conference of Religious of England and Wales (CoR) -- issued a rare joint letter to the Prime Minister and President, emphasizing the solidarity of the Conferences in their concern about the future of Iraq and the Iraqi people.

 The religious leaders said that the U.S. and Great Britain must accept responsibility for the destruction of Iraq caused by the war and must work with the Iraqi people and the international community to rebuild the nation. “In order for peace and security to truly flourish in Iraq and in the world it is imperative that the Iraqi people participate in the decisions that will affect the future of their country.  Human rights must be given a central role in the reconstruction process.  Those countries responsible for the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure and the current unrest must now be responsible for the financial costs associated with reconstruction.”