Anglican Primate urges alternatives to armed intervention

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada says he cannot support armed intervention against Iraq and has urged the Canadian government to seek alternatives to military strikes.

Specifically, Archbishop Michael Peers said in a statement that Ottawa should use its position on the United Nations Security Council to press for the development of international conventions on sanctions similar to the Geneva Conventions on war.

Such conventions, he argues, would ensure that sanctions are applied consistently and that they do not harm innocent people, as frequently happens now.

Archbishop Peers also proposed that the International Criminal Court serve as an alternative to military strikes. “The court is a potential force for peace in that it would uphold the rule of law over that of military might,” he said.

The full text of Archbishop Peers’ statement follows.

Statement on Iraq

By Archbishop Michael Peers

Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Once again, Iraq has been the target of western military force. The decision of the United States of America and Britain to join in an attack on Iraq has also found acceptance from the Prime Minister of Canada. And although the bombing has stopped, its resumption is an ever-present threat.

The intransigence of the Iraqi leadership in refusing to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to complete their mandate is of deep concern. Saddam Hussein’s defiance of the international community is detestable. But military intervention is no solution. It promises to lead Iraq into still greater intractability.

For nearly eight years now, the people of Iraq have suffered under sanctions that have caused hardship and tragedy. Neither sanctions nor military action have managed to bring a more just and peaceable society in Iraq. I concur with Ernie Regehr of “Project Ploughshares”, a peace and disarmament organization sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches.

He says that “the present sanctions and military attacks betray and weaken Iraqi society and strengthen the regime.”

Experienced soldiers understand that military action is a last resort, and I do not believe that this situation calls for that. If we seek peace, if we seek to unseat governments which wage terrorism and intimidate both their own citizens and other nations, we need to find alternatives which are by nature peace-building rather than death-dealing. I want to suggest two areas of exploration.

First, I urge our government to use its position on the Security Council of the United Nations to press for the development of international conventions on sanctions that parallel the 1949 Geneva conventions on the conduct of war. Sanctions have been imposed on a number of countries in the past, but have been carried out with considerable inconsistency. In the sanctions imposed on Iraq, it is the most vulnerable of citizens who have been hurt – especially the children, many thousands of whom have died from malnutrition and disease. When the Canadian government applied sanctions against South Africa in the darkest days of apartheid, it took care to consider methods that would cause the least amount of pain to the oppressed, and be most effective against those who were oppressors. Our recent history, then, offers us models on which to reflect. An international commitment to the scope and employment of sanctions, as well as the minimization of the pain of civilians could provide a way forward when dealing with outlaw leaders.

I also propose an examination as to how the International Criminal Court might serve as an alternative to military intervention. Although the Court’s ratification process may take another year, its mandate will include dealing with matters referred to it by the United Nations Security Council. The Court is a potential force for peace in that it would uphold the rule of law over that of military might. American support of the Court, should it ever appear, would be significant.

I cannot support this latest attack, nor can I conceive of supporting the use of military force in similar circumstances in the future. I urge the Canadian government to use every means at its disposal to work for other solutions. In these days when Muslims mark the holy season of Ramadan, and Christians prepare for Christmas, I urge Anglicans throughout this country to pray for those on all sides in this conflict. May God inspire us with the song of peace sung by angels at the birth of Christ. May God also increase in us the vision of compassion and justice that we celebrate in the Christmas season.


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