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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Should the clergy be involved in foreign policy?
A petition drawn up by the Christian peace group Pax Christi protesting against attacking Iraq has been delivered to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.

The declaration was signed by 2,500 religious groups and several Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops.

One of the signatories was Dr Rowan Williams who will take over the Church of England's top job in Canterbury in October.

Any attack on Iraq has been described as being "immoral and illegal".

The protest is the latest in a rising tide of criticism as speculation mounts that the US is planning to strike Iraq, and would be backed by Britain.

Do you agree with the actions of the Bishops and Pax Christi? Should the clergy be involved in foreign policy? Tell us what you think.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I agree with the right to speak out but not influence. I don't want to live in a Theocratic state!
Cathy, UK

I'm amazed to see some of the ignorant twaddle on this forum, "most of the world's wars and problems are caused by religion". No, most of the world's problems are caused by mankind and religion is the excuse and "cover story" for the true reasons behind war - irrational hatred and greed!
D Jones, UK

One thing is for sure, no religion teaches violence, in fact it encourages peace. The problem is no one is following it.
M Khan, UK

So long as the clergy petition, or publish opinion, the more perspective the better. Grant them any power beyond that, and the Inquisition lurks 'round the corner.
Armand Sarvarian, UK

Personally I have no time for the church but applaud their stance

Vish, UK
Amazing how many people here berate Pax Christi on their stance against the war on terror. How many of those same people would call themselves good Christians? Personally I have no time for the church but applaud their stance.
Vish, UK

In their dedication to peace they seem not to comprehend that sometimes it is necessary to fight evil with the sword. They might have more credibility if they protested at the shocking persecution of Christians in certain parts of the world instead of apparently taking a standard leftist line which seems to impact against the national and public interest.
Hilary, Wales

Religion should keep well out of it. Let's face it most of the world's wars and problems are caused by religion so we don't want them making this worse.
Garetj, UK

The clergy have a right to make their views known

Mark Stallard, UK
Of course the clergy have a right to make their views known. From a moral perspective we benefit collectively from their ability to see things with a non-governmental or non-journalistic bent. At this time that is invaluable.
Mark Stallard, UK

Blair is very proud of his Christian credentials so it is perfectly fit that an Archbishop should remind him of the Christian values of humanity and compassion.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

It is obvious that the Christian group that delivered a protest to the English Government about the possibility of Britain and the USA attacking Iraq haven't a clue of what Saddam Hussein is doing! Why don't they stick to their churches and help local people and leave the Government to run the country. The Government doesn't run the church!
Terence Gaffney, USA

What a wonderful breath of fresh air blowing through the established church. At long last a top prelate willing to take the Christian faith seriously. Top marks to Rowan Williams and Pax Christi.
Syd Leathwood, UK

The clergy should not be given any special hearing

Andrew T, UK
Being an Atheist I don't think the clergy hold a higher moral ground over any other protesters and therefore should not be given any special hearing. Morals are social in origin and therefore a belief in God is irrelevant to this issue.
Andrew T, UK

If non-elected officials of non-governmental organisations should not make a comment on the country's policies, then surely journalists should pass comment on the news, doctors on healthcare policy or teachers on education policy. The church represents a moral position, and is justified in commenting on the morality of this government's policies.
Matt, UK

Of course Dr Williams and his friends have a right to express their views - we all have. Equally, the government should give exactly the same weight to Dr Williams' views as it would to those of any man or woman in the street.
Peter Wood, UK

As a committed Christian I firmly agree with the position taken today by Pax Christi, and would like to add my voice to those others who are clamouring for peace in a world gone mad.
Paul Middleton, UK

No one should give their opinions special weight just because of what they do for a living.
Graham Price, UK

Every British citizen has the right to free speech

Dave, UK
The senior bishops of the Church of England have seats in the House Of Lords. It is therefore quite right that they stand up and say what they believe. Every British citizen has the right to free speech and should be listened to by the government.
Dave, UK

The bishops are right to speak out against a war on Iraq. For too long we've done Uncle Sam's bidding. Let's hope we have the moral courage to stand up to US pressure on this occasion
Stuart, UK

I am an atheist and I say they have as much right as anyone here to speak out at the possible murder of thousands of innocent people.
Jamie, UK

It's totally immoral to strike a country that has been under sanctions for the last 12 years

Ekkehard Jaenicke, Austria/ Germany
I agree with the actions of the Bishops and Pax Christi. It's totally immoral to strike a country that has been under sanctions for the last 12 years. The clergy represent a qualified amount of public opinion all over Europe. They are right to make such a clear stand.
Ekkehard Jaenicke, Austria/ Germany

These people are no longer relevant to the modern world. We can decide our own morality and do not need their 'guidance'. Have they not realised this by looking at their empty pews?
Joseph, UK

I can't understand those who feel that Church leaders have no right to express their opinions. Individuals should be allowed to raise their voice against anything that they feel is objectionable to their conscience. Besides, there are enough politicians who lack the courage to speak out.
Neal Hurley, UK

Religious leaders should always by morally guiding their flock. In the case of the Church of England, being the established church of this land, there is without a doubt a strong obligation to give moral guidance to our government.
Paul, UK

If the clergy don't speak out on moral matters then there is no point in having them.

Daniel Smith, England
If the clergy don't speak out on moral matters then there is no point in having them. All too often Christianity appears as a weak, dying, religion capable of only delivering sermons about leaky church roofs. As our politicians do not provide moral guidance in their legislative actions then the Church must do this. Without moral guidelines our lives will rapidly become "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Daniel Smith, England

Judging by current attendances, the church cannot seriously expect to be heard, when it represents a mere fraction of today's society. Besides, it is religious groups, in various forms, that are the cause of most of the current global conflicts and acts of terrorism. (N.Ireland/Middle East, Al-Qaeda...!) The world would surely be a safer and happier place if these groups kept their voices to themselves.
Marc, UK

Yes, as a Quaker I say absolutely, members of churches should speak "truth to power". Faith is about the whole of life, not just what you do when you worship. The gospel demands forgiveness, justice, reconciliation. Killing and violence are not consistent with that. Religious bodies, those who work in them and those who are members of them need to work their faith out in practical terms, not just preach it to the converted on Sundays. Good for Rowan Williams!
Richard Ogden, England

One can't divorce the Church from everyday life. It's not something that's just there for Sunday, it is bound to have an opinion on domestic and foreign policy. As for the Iraq question I wholeheartedly agree that the clergy should express its concern, many of us, including politicians are concerned whether the proposed invasion of Iraq is wise.
Martin, UK

They should not be either involved or invited to speak. They are not elected and have no right to interfere in such matters. But as they have taken the opportunity, I wonder what they will say if a chemical 9-11 happens here?
C.Clarke, England

Yes the clergy should speak out on any issue where there is a moral or religious justification.
J Holden, UK

Absolutely not! It's all very well Christian faiths claiming the moral high ground, but when dictators exist who have no regard for human life, and especially for people who do not share their own religious beliefs, then the matter lies firmly with the respective governments. History will show that religion is more often the reason for many troubles. To bring religion into any possible confrontation with Iraq is dangerous and to be avoided. If Iraq is attacked it should be for the reasons already stated. This is not about Christianity and Islam.
Steve T, England

I feel strongly that unelected clergy should have no role whatsoever in governing a country. However, they have just as much right to express their opinions as George Michael did with his recent single.
Jon E, France

I as a British/Iraqi citizen, who has been living in the UK for the last 10 years, do agree with the actions of the Bishops and Pax Christi. It's totally immoral to strike a country that has been under sanctions for the last 10 years. Yes we don't like Saddam Hussian, but I don't trust the present US president to change the situation in Iraq.
Yasir Alkadhem, UK

I'm sure the clergy has a great deal to add to the debate. After all, the Church has a lengthy history of acting immorally and of using war to further its own aims.
Nick, England

Absolutely not, the Church should have no say in the running of the country. It troubles me that an organisation that is based around ancient mythology should have such an influence over the country in the 21st century. Separation of church and state now!
Luke, UK

Whether it will make a difference is another matter

Frank, UK
The clergy are right to question the morality and legality of any attack on Iraq based on the evidence (or lack of) that military action is the only way of stopping Saddam. Whether it will make a difference is another matter but with the UN, senior military personnel and European leaders expressing concerns it sends an important message. To quote Jessie Jackson, we need to use our minds, not missiles, to resolve problems in the Middle East.
Frank, UK

Since the clergy have failed to keep "bums on pews", so to speak, they might as well get involved in something else. Why anyone should take their side interests seriously given the emptiness of modern churches is another matter.
John B, UK

What a great beginning for an Archbishop! Not only does he betray Christian faith and morals with his induction as a druid and views on homosexuality respectively, but he is prepared to betray his country to a foreign tyrant, who is racing to acquire nuclear and biological weapons.
Rosa Gillibrand, UK

Let the religious people stick to what they do best

Leslie, UK
I totally agree with the fundamental right of any person in the UK having the freedom to state their opinions. However, I think that it would be wrong for the clergy to get involved in foreign policy - where would it stop? Let's stick to the people we elected to run the country's affairs, and let the religious people stick to what they do best.
Leslie, UK

A lot of people in England, Christian and otherwise agree with the view points presented by the clergy. They represent a huge amount of public opinion, and have a strong voice to air it. They are right to make a stand.
vik, England

No, the clergy should certainly not be involved with foreign policy. The last thing the government needs is a part-time druid and a bunch of his Bible-bashing bishops muddying the political waters. As Blair's bunch is quite capable of getting in a mess on its own, without outside help, Pax Christi should attend to its own affairs and avoid the temptation to meddle.
Chris B, England

It's called freedom of speech

Stephen, England
Anyone, from any walk of life, has the right to publicly criticise government policy if they disagree with it. It's called freedom of speech.
Stephen, England

One of the main reasons for the institution of the Church is to speak up for the social justice that Christ stood for. Not only does the Church have a right to speak out, if it feels that social justice and the Christian morality is being threatened, it has a duty to. St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas both talked about a 'just war'. If the Church feels such a war does not meet that criteria, it is failing in its own teachings not to highlight that fact.
Richard, UK

Should clergy be involved in foreign policy? I'd say `yes' if I can vote them in and out of power...
Steve Wade, UK

I don't think this is really anything to do with foreign policy. As has been said elsewhere, this is more a question of morals, a subject on which the church is presumably well qualified to comment.
Nick, England

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06 Aug 02 | UK Politics
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