Syria and military action – Archbishop of Canterbury responds to Prime Minister’s statement

On 26th November 2015 the Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Stowell, repeated in the Lords a statement given earlier in the day to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister about Syria and the possibility of military action. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, responded:

Archbishop of CanterburyThe Archbishop of Canterbury: I thank the Leader of the House for the repetition of the Statement, and particularly the publication of the Foreign Affairs Committee report, and welcome the seriousness of the emphasis in both the Statement and the report on a comprehensive approach—the seriousness of military action but also the integration of soft and hard power, support for jobs, education, family and community life and stability, and of communities flourishing in the neighbouring countries, which comes out very strongly. The test will obviously be the total mobilisation of effort in a focused way that recognises the long-term needs of security for indigenous populations, particularly the Christian populations, which are being harried out of the area.

For the first time in almost 300 years, we are facing a conflict that has a distinct theological and religious element which we have not faced before. Recent studies—there is a particularly authoritative one in which I should declare an interest because it was partly written by one of my children, who is interested in the subject—demonstrate the theological basis of the extremist groups behind jihadist thinking. Do the Government realise that, in facing this conflict, there must be an ideological response that is not only national in dealing with the threat of extremism here, but global in challenging the doctrines that draw so many people to support ISIS internationally? What steps are they proposing to take to put together the conflict at the ideological and theological level, as well as the humanitarian and military levels?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The most reverend Primate raises an important point about ideology being an important element to us combating Islamist extremism. The Statement gives an indication of the comprehensive way in which we are approaching combating this huge threat.

On the specifics of the ideological approach, here in the UK, we have the extremism strategy, which is directed at addressing the risks associated with people here, but internationally we are doing quite a lot, taking the lead to address matters within the internet industry. We have a very effective approach on that. At a conference only about a week ago in Qatar, the UK was seen very much as a leader in bringing together all the respective players on that issue. The UK is hosting the coalition communications cell, which is an effort to address the communications aspects and drive a new narrative counter to that coming out of ISIL, and is a better way for people to understand the alternative to what it is proposing.


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