[This post has been reproduced with permission granted by Dr. Paul N. Anderson, the Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. He is aware of this post and he may be able to interact.]

Paul N. Anderson

A Declaration of Amnesty and Peace

An Open Letter to President Obama and the US Congress

(Thanks for the responses; this is a revised letter as of 05/09/2011.)

Given that all wars must finally come to an end by means of a political solution, I encourage President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to issue a Declaration of Amnesty and Peace to all self-identified enemies of the United States willing to renounce violence and to agree to address grievances and concerns through conventional and political means. This would accomplish three things: it would acknowledge success in the declared war on terror; it would show graciousness to all who are willing to live at peace with others; and it would forge a division between extremists and persons of conscience, given the final failure of terrorism and violence to achieve their goals. As the final resolution of ten years of conflict is likely to involve a call for peaceable means to peaceable ends and the constructive addressing of legitimate concerns, why not begin that process now?

America is not at war with those who are not at war with America, so a unilateral declaration of amnesty and peace invites a realignment of concerns and loyalties. It also should be accompanied by an American pledge to work for justice, grace, and liberty for all—lending support for the oppressed and the downtrodden in the name of democracy and freedom. This declaration also should invite all organizations and nations to join with the United States of America in renouncing violent means to political ends, instead advocating diplomacy and democracy, so that communication between states and between the governed and their leaders can be open and full. Such has always been the stance of the United States, and all who stand for freedom, justice, grace, truth, and compassion are welcomed to join us in this sacred vocation.

The following points suggest how such an offer might be extended and accepted:

  • The invitation could be ushered within a 30-day window, inviting all who would like to do so to visit sites designated by American Embassies around the world and to sign a statement of non-aggression and the willingness to address noted concerns in non-violent ways.
  • In exchange, neither the United States nor its allies would target such persons as long as they uphold their agreements, and the United States would thereby commit to taking seriously noted concerns as a reliable partner in working for justice, grace, transparency, and freedom in the world.
  • If such an offer is not made, however, my fear is that many lives will be lost unnecessarily. Therefore, whatever number the positive responses to such an offer might be, each will constitute a real success for those individuals and our endeavors. More significantly, posing an honorable alternative to violence is itself an advance over the escalation of misery and the bankruptcy of force.

This offer is made in good faith, as America has no interest in prolonging conflict or in exacting revenge. My hope is that we would thus walk away from the present conflict, inviting all combatants to lay down their arms in exchange for our doing the same. As the vast information recovered from the headquarters of Osama Bin Laden in recent days means that the identities and whereabouts of many of America’s self-declared enemies will be known, America should invite a renunciation of violence before taking action against its enemies, professed or perceived. This would be an honorable and merciful way forward, envisioning an end to our present conflict. We invite all persons everywhere to join us in a renewed and sustained commitment to nonviolent and peaceable means to addressing legitimate concerns. As is the case for all peoples and nations of the earth, we exist not for ourselves but for the world’s healing.

Paul N. Anderson

Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies

George Fox University, Newberg, OR 97132

(505) 554-2651