AIR STRIKES ordered against Islamic State (IS) terrorists in
Iraq have the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several Free
Church leaders have expressed their doubts, however.
Recalled to Parliament last Friday, MPs voted in favour of
Britain's third intervention in Iraq in 24 years. Since then, RAF
Tornado jets have flown a number of sorties into Iraq. It was
revealed on Tuesday that British planes had bombed vehicles and
fighters in Iraq for the first time, aiding Kurdish forces who are
battling IS in north-western Iraq.
Speaking in Friday's debate in the House of Lords, Archbishop
Welby said that this was a just cause. But he warned that the world
would not be able to defeat Islamist extremism by force of arms
"We do need to take this action now," he said. "But it is also
necessary over time that any response to ISIL [another name for IS]
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
Earlier that day, the Prime Minister had told MPs that "there
was no realistic prospect" of defeating the terrorist group, which
recently beheaded a British aid worker, David Haines, and holds at
least two other British hostages, without the use of military
action. "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
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said that he, also, was in
favour of military action against IS. After a six-hour debate, the
government motion, which restricted engagement to air action over
Iraq, was passed overwhelming by 524 votes to 43.
A joint statement by the General Secretary of the Baptist Union
and the President of the Methodist Conference before the vote said,
however, that military intervention was hugely risky, and rarely
the best option.
"An ideology - even one as dangerous and perverse as that of IS
- cannot be defeated by the use of weapons," their statement said.
"Any intervention must be legally justified, and can only be
supported as one part of a broad political and economic strategy
which must have the support of countries in the region. It is not
certain that the most crucial elements of such a strategy are in
Archbishop Welby said, however, that religious leaders "must up
their game", and be involved in offering an alternative to young
Muslims attracted to jihadism. "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
The Bishop of Derby, Dr Alistair Redfern, told peers that IS was
not a "disease" that could be "eradicated" but rather was a
philosophy that needed to be challenged. "Besides the current
military need, we have to engage with the debate about what a good
society is from the ingredients of politics and religion. We have
to contribute to that together if we are to stem this tide and
create a safer world to live in."
The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, agreed,
saying that it was impossible to bomb an ideology. Instead, IS's
beliefs should be dismantled by the "more powerful weapons of
truth, justice, and compassion".
The Recording Clerk for the Society of Friends (Quakers), Paul
Parker, wrote to Mr Cameron on the day before the debate, urging
him to consider non-military options to bring peace to Iraq and
Syria. "We remind those who make these decisions in Britain that it
is often easier to start a war than to end it, and that additional
violence itself fuels a bloody and destructive cycle."
government is the weak link in the anti-IS coalition
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