Opinion on Libya ranges from anxious to angry

by
23 March 2011

by Ed Thornton

THE Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, has warned that interfaith relations may be harmed by the “unfolding events” in Libya.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Monday, the Bishop asked whether the Leader of the Lords, Lord Strath­clyde, shared his “concern that in an increasingly volatile region there are already those who for their own ends are using somewhat inflammatory language and trying to construct a reli­gious narrative around these un­folding events.

“In this account, a vulnerable Is­lamic population is being subjected to an opportunistic attack by a power­ful Christian West. Not only does such a narrative have the power to destab­il­ise the wider Middle East region, but it could impact very negatively on community relations in this country.”

Lord Strathclyde replied that “there is no religious angle” to the con­­flict, and that the UK and the United Na­tions “are motivated by a humanitar­ian desire to bring some sort of peace and opportunity to the people of Libya”.

On Sunday, speaking in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI appealed “to those who have the political and military responsibility to take to heart the safety and security of citizens and guarantee that they have access to humanitarian aid”.

The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship has endorsed a statement by the International Peace Bureau (IPB), of which it is a member, which said that “non-military methods have not been utterly exhausted. . . The most urgent task, and the most effective way to carry out the UN-mandated ‘Responsibility to Protect’ the civilian population, is to engage immedi­ately both the Gaddafi regime and the rebels in serious negotiations.”

Ekklesia, a Christian think tank, said in a statement on Sunday that the action in Libya “will inevitably kill civilians and increase the cycle of violence, whatever military targets are destroyed”.

Symon Hill, associate director of Ekklesia, said: “The British Prime Minister is bombing Libya only a few months after authorising the sale of arms to the Gaddafi regime. . . If the Government wishes to demonstrate a commitment to opposing dictator­ship on the world stage, ending all arms sales to oppressive regimes should be the priority rather than risky military adventurism.”

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There were “vastly differing atti­tudes to war among Christians, but war is always regrettable and must be seen as a last resort”, the director of the Evangelical Alliance, Steve Clif­ford, said. “The UN Security Council resolution of 1973 . . . was made to sanction a strict code of military action to restore international peace. We ask that the current UN cam­paign does not go beyond its man­date and that civilian lives are pro­tected in every possible way.”

Poll on Afghanistan. In response to a YouGov survey commissioned by Together Afghanistan — a coalition backed by Christian Aid, Save the Children UK, and other agencies — 58 per cent of respondents said that they were unclear what Britain was trying to achieve in Afghanistan.

The results were published in the same week as the UN voted to renew the mandate for its mission in Afghanistan for another year.

YouGov surveyed 2595 British adults online between 14 and 15 March. Twenty-six per cent said that the current approach in Afghanistan was working well.

Serena Di Matteo, country dir­ector for Afghanistan at Christian Aid, said: “Afghanistan’s develop­ment is being undermined by the cur­rent conflict. More and more civil­ians are being killed in the fighting. The UK Government must now give its backing to a compre­hensive peace process which helps bring an end to a conflict.”

UN figures last week suggested that the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan rose to 2700 in 2010.

Question of the week: Was military intervention in Libya right?

by Gerald Butt Middle East Correspondent

DESPITE military action in Libya, Anglican services in the capital, Tripoli, continued this week. The Chaplain, the Revd Hamdy Daoud, and the remaining members of his congregation were reported safe, and the Anglican church, Christ the King, undamaged.

Targets in the capital were hit by the foreign forces imposing the no-fly zone. In general, however, Tripoli — Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s power base — was quieter than most other cities.

The President-Bishop of the Epis­copal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, based in Cairo, said that he had received a message from Mr Hamdy, who has no family with him. “He is OK and safe. A good part of the expatriates who make up his congregation have left.”

Most of the Asians have gone — as have the very few Europeans who attended services at Christ the King. Some Asians and many Africans, however, are still in Tripoli, and are now not allowed to leave.

Bishop Anis said that Mr Hamdy and all the Roman Catholic bishops and clerics in Libya had decided to stay put, no matter what happened, to maintain a Christian presence. Mr Hamdy was “courageous, bold, and a man of faith”, the Bishop said. “I am proud of him, but I am also concerned; so I am asking everyone to pray for him.”

The Bishop said that there was concern in Egypt and elsewhere about the level of violence in Libya — in particular, that air and missile strikes might miss their targets and cause civilian casualties. “I hope it will all end in a peaceful way, as happened in Egypt,” he said. “We praise the Lord when we see what is happening in Libya and what might have happened here.”

The intervention of foreign forces, with a United Nations man­date and Arab League backing, has made for an ambivalent mood in the Arab world: most back the principle of action against one of the vilest regimes in the region; but many condemn the West’s military inter­ven­tion. In the view of one Tunisian newspaper, this would “tarnish the Libyan people’s battle against a corrupt dictatorship”.

A liberal Saudi columnist, Daoud al-Shiryan, said that he was no sup­porter of Colonel Gaddafi, but the cost to the Iraqis of the removal of Saddam Hussein by Western powers had been half a million lives lost and two million people displaced. He asked: “What price will the Libyan people pay for the ousting of the colonel?”

The editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi, a newspaper with a record of criticis­ing Arab regimes, Abdel Bari Atwan, said that the world could not stand idle when the Libyan leader was killing his own people. The sight of American missile strikes and bombings, however, awoke memories of the 1991 and 2003 attacks on Iraq. Arabs were left wondering if they would see a re­peat performance in Libya.

At the same time, Dr Yousef al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood theologian who is a regular and influential broadcaster on al-Jazeera television, denounced Colonel Gaddafi for calling the Western action against Libya “a new crusade on Islam”. For a start, he said, it was Arab leaders and the Libyan opposition who had asked for military action.

by Gerald Butt Middle East Correspondent

DESPITE military action in Libya, Anglican services in the capital, Tripoli, continued this week. The Chaplain, the Revd Hamdy Daoud, and the remaining members of his congregation were reported safe, and the Anglican church, Christ the King, undamaged.

Targets in the capital were hit by the foreign forces imposing the no-fly zone. In general, however, Tripoli — Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s power base — was quieter than most other cities.

The President-Bishop of the Epis­copal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, based in Cairo, said that he had received a message from Mr Hamdy, who has no family with him. “He is OK and safe. A good part of the expatriates who make up his congregation have left.”

Most of the Asians have gone — as have the very few Europeans who attended services at Christ the King. Some Asians and many Africans, however, are still in Tripoli, and are now not allowed to leave.

Bishop Anis said that Mr Hamdy and all the Roman Catholic bishops and clerics in Libya had decided to stay put, no matter what happened, to maintain a Christian presence. Mr Hamdy was “courageous, bold, and a man of faith”, the Bishop said. “I am proud of him, but I am also concerned; so I am asking everyone to pray for him.”

The Bishop said that there was concern in Egypt and elsewhere about the level of violence in Libya — in particular, that air and missile strikes might miss their targets and cause civilian casualties. “I hope it will all end in a peaceful way, as happened in Egypt,” he said. “We praise the Lord when we see what is happening in Libya and what might have happened here.”

The intervention of foreign forces, with a United Nations man­date and Arab League backing, has made for an ambivalent mood in the Arab world: most back the principle of action against one of the vilest regimes in the region; but many condemn the West’s military inter­ven­tion. In the view of one Tunisian newspaper, this would “tarnish the Libyan people’s battle against a corrupt dictatorship”.

A liberal Saudi columnist, Daoud al-Shiryan, said that he was no sup­porter of Colonel Gaddafi, but the cost to the Iraqis of the removal of Saddam Hussein by Western powers had been half a million lives lost and two million people displaced. He asked: “What price will the Libyan people pay for the ousting of the colonel?”

The editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi, a newspaper with a record of criticis­ing Arab regimes, Abdel Bari Atwan, said that the world could not stand idle when the Libyan leader was killing his own people. The sight of American missile strikes and bombings, however, awoke memories of the 1991 and 2003 attacks on Iraq. Arabs were left wondering if they would see a re­peat performance in Libya.

At the same time, Dr Yousef al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood theologian who is a regular and influential broadcaster on al-Jazeera television, denounced Colonel Gaddafi for calling the Western action against Libya “a new crusade on Islam”. For a start, he said, it was Arab leaders and the Libyan opposition who had asked for military action.

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