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Ukraine invasion is ‘a call to action’, Cottrell tells Lords

25 February 2022

The Archbishop of York speaks in the House of Lords last Friday

The Archbishop of York speaks in the House of Lords last Friday

THE Archbishop of York has told the House of Lords that “peace is a choice”, and called for action to be taken to deliver it in Ukraine.

Speaking in an emergency debate in the House of Lords on Friday morning, Archbishop Cottrell condemned Vladimir Putin’s “flagrant disregard of the Ukrainian people’s legitimate right to self-determination”.

“Jesus urged his followers to be ‘peacemakers’, not simply peace-lovers,” he told peers. “This is an important distinction, because it is a call to action.

“The horrors being visited on Ukraine must be a wake-up call for us that peace is something you need to work at.”

Archbishop Cottrell continued: “We must use all our diplomatic muscle and energy, stringent economic sanctions, and focused political will to force Russia to step back from this aggression, withdraw its troops and silence the guns, not least because effective sanctions will mean many innocent Russians suffer as well. Our actions must be swift and cohesive if they are to be decisive.”

Lasting peace “requires a new commitment to international instruments of law and order, accountability and investment so that we make peace and choose peace, not just hope to keep it”.

The debate was opened by the Minister of State for Defence, Baroness Goldie, who outlined the sanctions already announced by the Government. “Make no mistake,” she told the House: “President Putin will pay the price for his barbarism.”

She warned of a refugee crisis of “unprecedented proportions”. The Labour peer Lord Collins of Highbury asked for more clarity on how the Government planned to support refugees from the conflict, a question repeated by several other speakers.

Lord Collins said: “We must never allow our determination to confront Putin to obscure our desire for friendship and peace with the Russian people.” This point was reiterated by many, including Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff (Interview, 6 October 2010).

Lord Dannatt went on to criticise “insufficient” funding for the Army, and paraphrased Theodore Roosevelt: “With regards to Ukraine we’ve been talking softly, but where is our big stick?”

The former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries of Pentregarth suggested that, to be effective, sanctions would have to be maintained for a long time. This would be a “searching” challenge for our resolve.

He recognised the links between Russia and Ukraine that Vladimir Putin has used as part of the pretext for invasion, but said: “Invading a country is hardly the way to strengthen those historic cultural and religious links.”

And he referred to the spread of online disinformation about the conflict, emphasising the importance of a free press and “truth in public life”.

Speaking shortly after the Archbishop of York, Lord Sedwill, a former Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser, said: “The key to sanctions is to impose a higher price than was expected by the offender.” He urged the Government to go further, as the current sanctions will have been “priced in” by Putin’s regime.

Archbishop Cottrell reiterated the call to make Sunday “a day of prayer for peace”. He highlighted the Diocese in Europe’s invitation to join an online vigil on Shrove Tuesday (1 March) at 6 p.m., and Pope Francis’s plea to make Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and prayer for peace.

“We pray because we believe God’s grace has the final word, not the horrors of sin, not death”, he said. “We also pray because that prayer will shape our will and will shape our resolve.”

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Alderdice said that it was “ironic and appropriate” that the opening prayers for Thursday’s sitting in the Lords had been said by the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, “whose diocese and city stand as a symbol and reminder of the horror and destruction of war, as well as the better spirit that can help us through it.”

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