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Welby backs airstrikes against IS but says wider vision is needed

26 September 2014


USS Philippine Sea launches a Tomahawk Cruise missile from the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday

USS Philippine Sea launches a Tomahawk Cruise missile from the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has backed the proposed airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq ( News, 26 September), but has warned that this "transgenerational struggle" will require more than just bombs.

Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords, Archbishop Welby said that the world will not be able to defeat Islamist extremism by force of arms alone: "ISIL [another name for IS] and its dreadful barbarity are only one example of a global phenomenon. We will not thus be able to deal with a global, holistic danger if the only weapons we are capable of using are military and administrative, and if we focus only on one place.

"We do need to take this action now. But it is also necessary over time that any response to ISIL, and to this global danger, be undertaken on an ideological and religious basis that sets out a more compelling vision, a greater challenge, and a more remarkable hope than that offered by ISIL."

Later, after a six-hour debate, MPs voted by an overwhelming majority - 524 to 43 - in favour of the Government launching airstrikes in Iraq. One Labour MP, shadow education spokeswoman Rushnara Ali, resigned from the front bench in order to abstain on the vote.

Archbishop Welby said that Britain must face up to the fact that, for some young Muslims, jihadism was more attractive than the "consumer society" offered here. "Religious leaders must up their game, and the Church is playing its part," he said.

"It is the role of the church I serve to point beyond imperfect responses    the message of Jesus Christ and justice, healing and redemption that he offers. But, in the here and now, there is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds to enable oppressed victims to find safe space.

"The action proposed today is right, but we must not rely on a short-term solution on a narrow front to a global, ideological, religious, holistic, and trans-generational challenge."

At the same time MPs in the House of Commons were debating a Government motion to join in American airstrikes on IS in Iraq, but not Syria. David Cameron told the House that IS was not a "threat on the far side of the world", but posed a direct challenge to Britain's national interests.

He said that the Iraqi government had asked Britain for help, which provided a strong legal basis for airstrikes against IS. "There is no realistic prospect" of defeating the terrorists who recently beheaded the British aid-worker David Haines, without the use of military action, Mr Cameron argued.

"If we allow ISIL to grow and thrive, there's no doubt in my mind that the level of threat to the country would increase," he said.

For the Opposition, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said that IS was a threat to anyone who "does not subscribe to their deeply perverted ideology", which has "nothing to do with the peaceful religion practised by people across the world, and by millions of our fellow citizens, who are appalled by what we see".

He said that military action - but not including deploying soldiers to Iraq - was necessary to contain and begin to counter IS. He described the Islamists as "a murderous organisation" that also has "ambitions for a state of its own - a caliphate across the Middle East, run according to their horrific norms and values".

Earlier, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had told a UN Security Council meeting that "terrorism represents a fundamental threat to our common humanity".

He said: "International cooperation must also address the root causes upon which international terrorism feeds. Together with the legal tools and resources to prevent citizens from becoming foreign terrorist fighters, governments should engage with civil society to address the problems of communities most at risk of radicalization and recruitment and to achieve their satisfactory social integration."

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