Archbishop Speaks on ISIL

Adapted from a report by Gavin Drake of ACNS

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that just-war criteria have been met to justify military action against ISIL in Syria, but warned that merely bombing terrorist targets would “confirm their dreadful belief that what they are doing is the will of God.” He called for a holistic approach to tackling ISIL, which should include a “global theological component.”

Archbishop Justin Welby made his comments in a speech in the House of Lords on Dec. 2, a day when both houses were debating a government proposal to extend its current anti-terrorism campaign in Iraq to also include targets in Syria. The lower house, the House of Commons, was scheduled to vote that evening on whether to support such a motion. Approval from the upper house is not required.

The archbishop said that while just-war criteria have been met and 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.”

He said that three components were missing from the debate.

First, he said that “through visiting all 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion [and] through the constant contacts we have with Muslim and Christian contacts 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 providing local solutions.

“ISIL is but-one head of the hydra: religiously motivated extremism is not restricted to one part of the world.”

Second, Archbishop Welby warned that bombing terrorist targets “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 it will not work.

“If we act only against ISIL globally, and only in the way proposed so far, we will strengthen their resolve, increase their recruitment and encourage their sympathizers. Without a far more comprehensive approach, we confirm their dreadful belief that what they are doing is the will of God.”

Third, he said it was “essential to defeat ISIL and other extremist narratives” and called for a global theological and ideological component, not just one in England.

“And it must be one which is relentlessly pursued and promoted; and it must include challenging Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose own promotion of a particular brand of Islamic theology has provided a source from which ISIL have drawn a false legitimization.”

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