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Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech in Lords debate on Iraq

Friday 26th September 2014

Transcript of Archbishop Justin Welby’s speech in the House of Lords debate today on developments in Iraq.

"My Lords, a danger of this debate is that we speak only of Iraq and Syria, only of ISIL, and only of armed force.

"ISIL and its dreadful barbarity are only one example of a global phenomenon, as the noble Baroness, the Leader of the House mentioned. We 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, and if we only focus on one place.

"As the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, set out so clearly, we do need to take this action now. But it is also necessary, over time, that any response to ISIL and to this global danger be undertaken on an ideological and religious basis that sets out a more compelling vision, a greater challenge and a more remarkable hope than that offered by ISIL. We must face the fact that for some young Muslims the attractions of jihadism outweigh the materialism of a consumer society. 

"As the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice implied, if we struggle against a call to eternal values, however twisted and perverted they may be, without a better story, we will fail in the long term. The vision we need to draw on is life-giving. 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. Religious leaders must up their game and the church is playing its part. It is the role of the church I serve to point beyond our imperfect responses and any material, national or political interest to the message of Jesus Christ and the justice, healing and redemption that he offers.

"But in the here and now, there is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds, to enable oppressed victims to find safe space. ISIL – and for that matter Boko Haram and others – have as their strategy to change the facts on the ground so as to render completely absurd any chance of helping the targets of their cruelty.

"It is clear from talking this week with Christian and other leaders across the region that they want support. The solidarity in the region is added to by the important statement from the Grand Imam of al-Azhar on Wednesday.

"The action proposed today is right, but we must not rely on a short-term solution on a narrow front to a global, ideological, religious, holistic and trans-generational challenge. We must demonstrate that there is a positive vision far greater and more compelling than the evil of ISIL and its global clones. Such a vision offers us and the world hope, an assurance of success in this struggle, not the endless threat of darkness."


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