Archbishop calls for ‘just peace’


Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the world’s leaders risk “blind and pointless conflict” against Islamist extremism unless there is a long-term effort to build a lasting and fair peace.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the use of armed force “on an international scale” might be required against Islamic State (IS) and other extremist organisations.

But the Archbishop warned that “defending ourselves through air power is both unlikely to succeed and questionable in its long-term effect”.

The UK has joined an international coalition taking part in air strikes against IS in Iraq, with the US and other countries are also targeting the group in Syria.

The Archbishop called for a “global, holistic and determined” effort to counter Islamist extremism, and said religious leaders “must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space”.

In an article for Prospect he compared the struggle against IS – also known as Isis – to the origins of the First World War.

“H istorians will argue the causes and errors for ever,” he said. “Yet the world risks the same errors of blind and pointless conflict now as leaders respond to Isis and other groups like it who call themselves ‘jihadists’, although in much of Islam the term ‘jihad’ means the peaceful, internal struggle for spiritual life and obedience.

“Whatever is done to face these groups must be global, holistic, and determined over the long term with a clear intention of building a just peace. Above all there needs to be a new and compelling alternative narrative to that of the self-styled jihadists.”

He said the struggle was ” not simply a religious conflict, but a terrible mix of ethnicity, economics, social unrest, injustice between rich and poor, limited access to resources, historic hatreds, post-colonial conflict and more”.

The aim must be for a ” just peace, not only our stability and prosperity”, he said, adding: “We are not fighting for economic prosperity and a second overseas holiday every year. That weighs little against an ideal, however perverted, of eternal salvation through jihadist killing.

“Our struggle is for the ideas of human flourishing both now and eternally, of mutual love and respect, of diversity handled in amity not enmity.”

He added that the “end of this struggle” must include ” a review of those aspects of our own culture and lives that rest in power and self advancement and not in love for neighbour” – including examining systems of trade, international finance and the exercise of power.

Turning to the use of force, he wrote: “We should be quite hesitant about considering this only as a war of self-defence. The justification for our use of military force rests principally in the extreme humanitarian need of the local communities.”

He added: “The aim of our violence must be to prevent the alteration of facts on the ground, and to establish safe space. Defending ourselves through air power is both unlikely to succeed and questionable in its long-term effect.”

He said that “nobody should be calling for a ‘war on terror’ – we tried that and it fed what we feared” and it was not a “conflict of civilisations”.

But he added: “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.”

The Archbishop concluded : “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 we respond as we should, if we take this challenge as we should, then the future is a hopeful one for us, and for those areas currently so terribly afflicted.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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