As more Canadian troops prepare for deployment to Iraq to join the combat mission against the militant Sunni group known as the Islamic State (ISIS), Archbishop Fred Hiltz today urged Anglicans to pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
“Once again we are at a moment in history when the world God loves is on high alert,” said the primate of the Anglican Church in Canada in a statement. “The world has witnessed horrific crimes against humanity and in the considered opinion of global leaders ISIS poses a very real threat to international security.”
The statement follows a vote in parliament on October 7 to join a U.S.-led coalition in airstrikes against ISIS. The vote, which passed 157-134, was not uncontroversial. Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair expressed concern that Canada was committing to a prolonged war with an insufficient plan, and suggested instead that Canada provide support to moderate forces already engaged in fighting ISIS and increase its humanitarian response.
The question of what to do in response to the violence of ISIS is a troubling one for many Canadians. Even as he recognized that there are many views within the Anglican Church of Canada as to the appropriateness of military actions such as this, Archbishop Hiltz did not himself take a position. He instead emphasized a pastoral response, saying that “While I am deeply aware of the significant debates among people of faith with respect to ‘just war,’ it is not my intent at this moment to draw us into that but rather to call us to prayer.”
More than 5,500 people have been killed and 1.8 million others have been displaced since the ISIS attacks began in Iraq in June, according to a recent UN report.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has already thrown his support behind the United Kingdom’s participation in the coalition, but has also challenged his government to provide a more robust response that counters the underlying ideologies and social conditions that give rise to terrorism.
Archbishop Hiltz closed his statement with a sobering call for Canadians to keep Syria and Iraq in mind over the Thanksgiving weekend. “Let us be mindful of all the blessings we enjoy, including religious freedom. Let us remember those who are denied this freedom and persecuted for their faith.”