Archbishop of Canterbury speaks in Lords debate on action against ISIL in Syria

On the 2nd December 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon. Justin Welby, spoke during the House of Lords debate on ISIL in Syria. The Archbishop’s speech is reproduced in full below and can be watched here. The Bishop of Coventry also spoke in the debate.

AbpCanterbury021215The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I add to the welcomes given to the noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond, and note his perfect timing in bringing his immeasurable wisdom and experience to our debates. I look forward very much to his contribution.

To my mind, the “just war” criteria have been met. However, while they are necessary, they are not by themselves sufficient in action of this kind, where we can end up doing the right thing in such a wrong way that it becomes the wrong thing. To my mind, there are three components that currently need more emphasis and are to some extent missing. In this role, through visiting all 38 provinces of the Anglican communion, through the constant contacts that we have with Muslim and Christian leaders in the region, as recently as three weeks ago in a conference at Lambeth Palace, I am constantly reminded that this is a global issue to which we are applying local solutions.

First, ISIL is but one head of the hydra; religiously motivated extremism is not restricted to one part of the world. Secondly, our bombing action plays into the expectation of ISIL and other jihadist groups in the region, springing from their apocalyptic theology. The totality of our actions must subvert that false narrative, because by itself one action will not work. If we act globally only against ISIL, and only in the way proposed so far, we will strengthen their resolve, increase their recruitment and encourage their sympathisers. Without a far more comprehensive approach, we confirm their dreadful belief that what they are doing is the will of God.

Thirdly, it is as essential to defeat the narratives of ISIL and other extremists. The Prime Minister’s strategy and the Minister’s speech rightly recognise that military action is only one part of the answer. There must be a global theological and ideological component, not just one in this country, to what we are doing. It must be one that is relentlessly pursued and promoted and it must include challenging Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose promotion of a particular brand of Islamic theology has provided a source from which ISIL has drawn false legitimation. It must also show clear support for global mainstream Muslim and other religious leaders.

Lastly, there is room and requirement for greater generosity in our nation’s hospitality to refugees, but hospitality must be accompanied by a clear strategy that reduces the need for others to seek sanctuary, which was mentioned in the Minister’s remarks and is welcome, and enables those who have fled to return. Communities that have lived there for 2,000 years should not simply be emptied from that region. The additional military force that we are bringing to this quasi-policing operation, which is already active over Syria, symbolically—and to some extent significantly—adds to what is happening there. Far more than that, it enables us to act where our resources and expertise are world-leading in the creation of post-conflict peace and nation building. Only a holistic, theological and global policy will achieve our aims.



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