Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has thrown his support behind the military airstrikes against the Islamic State (known also as ISIL or ISIS), a radical organization of insurgents in Iraq and Syria attempting to create a “caliphate,” or Islamic government ruled by a single individual in accordance with Sharia law.
In a debate in the House of Lords Sept. 26, Welby acknowledged that “there is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds, to enable oppressed victims to find safe space.”
However, he warned the House that the United Kingdom “will not thus be able to deal with a global, holistic danger if the only weapons we are capable of using are military and administrative.” Instead, he urged Britons to offer “a more compelling vision, a greater challenge and a more remarkable hope than that offered by ISIL.”
Welby’s speech, a copy of which was released by Lambeth Palace, highlighted the dangers of a purely technical response to the crisis in the Middle East. Welby exhorted his peers to “face the fact that for some young Muslims the attractions of jihadism outweigh the materialism of consumer society.” He noted that, “if we struggle against a call to eternal values, however twisted and perverted they might be, without a better story, we will fail in the long term.”
The archbishop was careful, however, not to portray the conflict in the stark and reductive terms of East versus West. Instead, he argued that this “better story” must be an ecumenical one to which all people of good faith have access. “The vision we need to draw on is life-giving,” said Welby. “It is rooted in the truths of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, relying heavily in the Middle Ages on the wealth of Islamic learning, the Abrahamic faiths-not necessarily enemies-and enriched by others such as Hinduism and Sikhism in recent generations.”
The motion to intervene once more in Iraq came in response to a formal request by the Iraqi government for military support, which the House of Commons ratified by a vote of 524 in favour and 43 opposed.