Islamic State cannot be defeated by military action alone, say major Church leaders

Leaders of two of Britain's major Churches say that the UKGovernment must not give into the rhetoric that Islamic State cansimply be bombed out of existence.

In a statement released today, leaders of the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain and the Methodist Church in Britain say that the casefor military intervention can only be supported as one part of abroader political and economic strategy to tackle the ideology ofIS.

The Churches have issued a briefing on the issues and are urging their members to pray and to write to their MPs askingthe Government to offer greater support to refugees from Syria andIraq as part of such a strategy.

The full statement follows:

The UK Government must treat with caution suggestions that IslamicState could be defeated primarily through military action. Anideology - even one as dangerous and perverse as that of IS -cannot be defeated by the use of weapons. Military action couldhelp to protect persecuted minorities and prevent IS from expandingits control in Iraq. But countering extremist violence in Iraqrequires that Iraqis effectively address the underlying grievancesthat provided support for the rise of IS. The situation in Syria ismore chaotic and the effectiveness of external militaryintervention less certain. Both nations face difficult challengesfor which there are no easy solutions.

Military intervention carries huge risks. Any intervention must belegally justified and can only be supported as one part of a broadpolitical and economic strategy which must have the support ofcountries in the region. It is not certain that the most crucialelements of such a strategy are in place. We recognise theGovernment's attempts to involve Iran, but would like to see thison a much broader front, and there are a number of unansweredquestions that must urgently be addressed. For example, what is thelevel of commitment among countries in the region to take steps toprevent the funding of violent extremism - not only in Iraq andSyria but more broadly?

The international community also has a key role to play indocumenting human rights abuses and challenging the culture ofimpunity that allows such atrocities to occur.

We are grateful that the Government has agreed to provideresettlement for some Syrian refugees, but to date only a handfulhave been resettled in the UK. This does not even begin to scratchthe surface of the level of need and further support must beextended to displaced people from both nations, in the UK andelsewhere. Meanwhile we welcome the contribution of the UKGovernment to the support of millions of displaced persons andrefugees who remain in the region.

As Christians we stand with those who are abused, persecuted andmarginalised, whatever their faith or ethnicity. We pray thatleaders in government who grapple with seemingly impossiblesituations will be guided by God's wisdom and peace. We willcontinue to pray for peace, to work towards greater understandingbetween peoples of all faiths and none, and to advocate for theneeds of those most marginalised.

The Revd Lynn Green
General Secretary of the Baptist Union of GreatBritain

The Revd Ken Howcroft
President of the Methodist Conference

Ms Gill Dascombe
Vice-President of the Methodist Conference