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Policy on Syria and the refugee crisis

25 September 2015


From the Revd James Shakespeare

Sir, — Alongside political responses to the refugee crisis, momentum is building towards support for air strikes on Syria. Government is preparing the case for targeted airstrikes against Islamic State (IS), seeking cross-party support.

Church leaders have a key responsibility to initiate ethical debate, and, I believe, oppose military intervention. All the evidence suggests, evil as IS is, that air strikes will only make things worse. Quite apart from civilian casualties, bombing reinforces a narrative of Western interventionism (Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”), driving people into the hands of radical terrorist groups.

We have been here before, many times since 2003; and, year on year, the situation in the region fragments further, making an impact on the refugee crisis. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. What is needed is a humanitarian and diplomatic response: a war of “hearts and minds”. This is not going to be popular, because quick fixes always score more highly in the public domain. But it is critical that Christian leaders strive to shift public debate in a more ethically informed, non-violent, and humane direction.

Following a God of reconciliation leads us to engage prophetically with the “principalities and powers” in this high-stakes situation.

The Rectory, Dingley Road
Great Bowden
Market Harborough
Leicestershire LE16 7ET


From the Revd Dr David de Pomerai

Sir, — The disruptive effects of the migrant crisis on European democracies are all too evident, and the numbers involved are now exceeding our capacity to cope.

Although the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, more recently, Syria are deep-rooted and intractable, it is surely no coincidence that IS has added fuel to the fire and turned a river of refugees into a flood of biblical proportions.

As a policy to undermine Western democracies, this has much to recommend it: creating squabbles and tensions between European nation states while taking our eyes off the so-called IS caliphate spreading across much of Iraq and Syria.

How we respond to this influx of dispossessed people will sorely test our supposedly liberal values based on the teachings of Jesus. But, if our response is one of barriers and exclusion, then our claim to the moral high ground looks increasingly like hypocrisy.

74 Woodville Road, Hartshorne
Swadlincote DE11 7ET


From Rosalind Lund

Sir, — I welcome the Archbishop of Canterbury’s promise to house Syrian refugees at Lambeth Palace. Nevertheless, I wonder how he will achieve this, in the light of the Government’s continuing refusal to allow any but a minimal number of “vulnerable” refugees into the UK.

I, like many other churchgoers, have offered similar hospitality, but we despair about how to make our generosity real. Many of us would happily forgo rent, and would certainly feed our guests while their affairs are sorted out, and would help them find their feet in many ways. Of course, there would still be costs to the nation: more staff to register the refugees, and provision of health care and schooling come to mind immediately.

Will Lambeth Palace provide support in the form of a central register of potential hosts, with a simple questionnaire that could be set up online? Something like Survey Monkey comes to mind; but it would need to be set up with care, so that useful information is requested that can be provided to the Government when appropriate.


1 Arbury Road
Cambridge CB4 2JB

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