Christian peer calls for Iraq helicopters to aid quake zone Muslims - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
October 21, 2005

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Christian peer calls for Iraq helicopters to aid quake zone Muslims

-21/10/05

Baroness Williams of Crosby, who is a practicing Catholic, has written to UK defence secretary John Reid asking for ìimmediate actionî to release British military helicopters currently being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they can assist victims of the Pakistan earthquake, especially those in Kashmir.

The Liberal Democrat peer, who has recently written a book on religion and politics, told the BBC today that ìthe impact of this on Muslim opinion would be wholly favourableî as a tangible expression of Western concern.

She points out that following the election in Iraq the security situation there has changed, and there is now a window to use military equipment to save lives.

The Pakistani president has said that there is a desperate need for airlift facilities to evacuate people from remote mountain settlements and fly in blankets, medicine and aid.

Only 60 helicopters are available for relief at the moment, and although another 19 are on the way most will not arrive till later next week. Up to 80,000 people may have died in the disaster.

NATO today agreed to send between 500 and 1,000 soldiers to help the earthquake relief effort, but workers on the ground say that without helicopters this is simply not adequate.

The UK Christian think tank Ekklesia immediately welcomed Baroness Williamsí suggestion, describing it as ìpractical, compassionate and imaginative.î

ìThe Christian and Jewish scriptures dream of turning swords into ploughshares. Here is a tangible opportunity to turn war machines into tools of life,î said Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

Dr Reid has yet to respond to Baroness Williams, who is also a leading academic in the area of political science. The defence department is said to be ìconsidering the matterî.

UK Department for International Development minister Gareth Thomas also declined to be drawn on the suggestion when interviewed by BBC Radio 4 earlier this afternoon.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq, criticised by Baroness Williamsí party, has caused outrage and anger throughout the Muslim world. Many believe that it has contributed to the recruitment people prepared to use terrorist tactics.

The war has also been characterised by Islamists as a ëcrusadeí, although the vast majority of the worldís Christian churches opposed it.

Baroness Williamsí suggestion is seen as a constructive way to save lives and to show a commitment to healing relations between Islam and the West. The great majority of quake victims have been Muslim.

ìIt would be really good to have more constructive proposals like this from the Christian community, as well as more resources for peacebuildingî added Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow.

He continued: ìInstead the resources of Englandís established church have today been preoccupied with celebrating the nationís military and imperial past at Trafalgar in 1805 ñ something that may seem an odd priority for an institution dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.î

Baroness Shirley Williams of Crosby was formerly a Labour MP and member of Harold Wilsonís government. She re-entered parliament in 1993 as a Liberal Democrat peer, and served as the party's spokesperson on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Lords from 1998 to 2001.

She was Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 and until September 2004.

[Also on Ekklesia: purchase a copy of ëGod and Caesarí by Shirley Williams; Christian Aid wins PR award for arms-into-tools initiative.]

Find books now:

Christian peer calls for Iraq helicopters to aid quake zone Muslims

-21/10/05

Baroness Williams of Crosby, who is a practicing Catholic, has written to UK defence secretary John Reid asking for 'immediate action' to release British military helicopters currently being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they can assist victims of the Pakistan earthquake, especially those in Kashmir.

The Liberal Democrat peer, who has recently written a book on religion and politics, told the BBC today that 'the impact of this on Muslim opinion would be wholly favourable' as a tangible expression of Western concern.

She points out that following the election in Iraq the security situation there has changed, and there is now a window to use military equipment to save lives.

The Pakistani president has said that there is a desperate need for airlift facilities to evacuate people from remote mountain settlements and fly in blankets, medicine and aid.

Only 60 helicopters are available for relief at the moment, and although another 19 are on the way most will not arrive till later next week. Up to 80,000 people may have died in the disaster.

NATO today agreed to send between 500 and 1,000 soldiers to help the earthquake relief effort, but workers on the ground say that without helicopters this is simply not adequate.

The UK Christian think tank Ekklesia immediately welcomed Baroness Williams' suggestion, describing it as 'practical, compassionate and imaginative.'

'The Christian and Jewish scriptures dream of turning swords into ploughshares. Here is a tangible opportunity to turn war machines into tools of life,' said Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

Dr Reid has yet to respond to Baroness Williams, who is also a leading academic in the area of political science. The defence department is said to be 'considering the matter'.

UK Department for International Development minister Gareth Thomas also declined to be drawn on the suggestion when interviewed by BBC Radio 4 earlier this afternoon.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq, criticised by Baroness Williams' party, has caused outrage and anger throughout the Muslim world. Many believe that it has contributed to the recruitment people prepared to use terrorist tactics.

The war has also been characterised by Islamists as a ëcrusade', although the vast majority of the world's Christian churches opposed it.

Baroness Williams' suggestion is seen as a constructive way to save lives and to show a commitment to healing relations between Islam and the West. The great majority of quake victims have been Muslim.

'It would be really good to have more constructive proposals like this from the Christian community, as well as more resources for peacebuilding' added Ekklesia's Simon Barrow.

He continued: 'Instead the resources of England's established church have today been preoccupied with celebrating the nation's military and imperial past at Trafalgar in 1805 - something that may seem an odd priority for an institution dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.'

Baroness Shirley Williams of Crosby was formerly a Labour MP and member of Harold Wilson's government. She re-entered parliament in 1993 as a Liberal Democrat peer, and served as the party's spokesperson on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Lords from 1998 to 2001.

She was Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 and until September 2004.

[Also on Ekklesia: purchase a copy of ëGod and Caesar' by Shirley Williams; Christian Aid wins PR award for arms-into-tools initiative.]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.