BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
War opponents get moral boost
Sister Annaliese, Anglican Community of the Sisters of the Church, in Downing Street
Sister Annaliese said Christians had to speak out

Despite reports that Labour MPs are pressing for bishops to be banished from the House of Lords, the clergy are flexing their political muscle.


We are being brainwashed by fear instead of listening to our hearts and minds

Sister Annaliese
Pax Christi
With Parliament on its summer break, it is religious leaders who have taken up concerns about possible UK support for an American strike on Iraq.

The delegation which brought a petition to the door of Number 10 may have been small, but it is the names of some of the 2,500 who have signed it which is significant.

They include Rowan Williams, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as the Right Reverend Finlay Macdonald, head of the Church of Scotland, and 13 other bishops.

'Brainwashing'

Organisers Pax Christi, a Catholic movement, have chosen the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb to deliver the petition.

Surely that makes it a fitting time to consider using whatever it takes to stop the build up of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Sister Annaliese, from the Anglican Community of Sisters of the Church disagreed.

The UK and US could not be sure that Saddam Hussein was building up such weapons, she argued.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury designate
Rowan Williams backed the declaration
"We are being brainwashed by fear instead of listening to our hearts and minds," she said.

Sister Annaliese rejected suggestions that church leaders should keep out of politics.

"I think it is my moral duty," she said. "We worship the prince of peace and we are concerned for peoples of all nations."

Key tests

Some Christians believe war can never be justified but the concept of a "just war" has long been part of the Christian tradition.

The Reverend Rob Esdaile, Roman Catholic chaplain at Sussex University, made that point as he helped deliver the petition.

But there were clear criteria for such a war, such as legal authority, last resort and just intention, which had not been met in this case, he said.

Lord Hurd, former foreign secretary
Ex-Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd says UN approval is needed
Church leaders had in the past been too slow to speak out, argued Rev Esdaile.

"In previous conflicts we have often been behind the game," he said. "We have not been proclaiming our faith and ethical reflection until we are actually in the middle of a war."

Tony Blair is currently on holiday rather than at Downing Street but the delegation insisted they were not indulging in an empty gesture.

Both Mr Blair and President George Bush are regular churchgoers and so know how clergy can shape and reflect the views of their flocks.

Persuasion needed

The declaration follows disquiet among Labour MPs and warnings from former military chiefs and foreign secretaries, as well as opinion polls suggesting the public still need persuading.

The prime minister says no decisions have been taken but he is committed to tackling claims Iraq is building up weapons of mass destruction.

The latest move increases the pressure on Mr Blair to get United Nations support for any attack at the very least.

Dr Williams' decision to speak out on the threat of war has made for a very different start to his tenure from that experienced by the current archbishop, George Carey.

When he was appointed 11 years ago, Dr Carey was often depicted by the press as a hand-clapping evangelical clutching a tambourine.

Now that same press is hailing Dr Williams as a man ready to stand up to Tony Blair.

He and other religious leaders will hope they can give real moral backing to those cautioning against war in Iraq.

The question is whether they can sway what critics see as the unholy alliance of a Republican president and a Labour prime minister.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Iraq protest
Should the clergy get involved in foreign policy?
See also:

06 Aug 02 | Politics
13 Jul 02 | Politics
05 Aug 02 | Politics
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
11 Jul 02 | Politics
05 Jul 02 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes