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Justin Welby: what should we do about ISIS?

Justin Welby: what should we do about ISIS?

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflection on how world leaders should respond to the threat posed by ISIS appear in the November issue of Prospect magazine in the United Kingdom, and online.

He says, in part:

Does a long-term strategy always include armed force? No one should imagine the solution is obvious. Used only in the Levant and despite the involvement of five Islamic countries in the current US-led coalition, military force is inevitably seen as yet more “crusader” violence and increases support for what it seeks to subvert.

Within Christian teaching there is a strong and brave tradition of absolute pacifism. Yet there are calls from Christian leaders in the Middle East for armed help. They seek temporary support while their own governments get their act together. They do not want the Middle East emptied of its Christian populations, essential to its culture, critical in many areas of life and there since before the time of St Paul. ….

Nobody should be calling for a “war on terror”—we tried that and it fed what we feared. Nor are we in a conflict of civilisations. That is exactly the over-simplification that brings catastrophe. But there is a need to struggle for the values that our own centuries of insane conflict have taught us to treasure. Sometimes this may temporarily include armed force on an international scale.

Welby concludes:

We all know that violence by itself resolves nothing. Any global struggle with aims of human growth and development, of a just peace and not only on the terms of the rich and powerful, requires a different spirit. For Christians it is ultimately through following the example of Christ’s self-giving love that we may save ourselves and others.

It may be that we cannot avoid some use of force, but that must be done in the context of a greater and more selfless ideal that renews the vision that rebuilt our own continent after the long wars that began in 1914. This struggle is for the heart and the spirit, not only for our security and undisturbed wealth. It is a winnable struggle, but the victory requires us to reshape our values, as much as to overcome those of ISIS.

If you have the time to read Archbishop Welby’s entire essay, please do. It is an excellent example of a Christian leader working diligently to synthesize the teachings of our faith and pressing contemporary realities to arrive at a morally defensible course of action.


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Rod Gillis

Whether one agrees with Welby or not its an interesting article, with a set of comprehensive, thought perhaps too wide ranging, comments. For a more concise and focused analysis, folks may be interested in the views of this political scientist from York University, re the failure of the ISIS mission to meet the litmus test.

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