Chaplains support runway expansion
Theology appears to be clashing with environmentalists with the news that The British Isles and Eire Airport Chaplains Network has thrown at least some of its weight behind the aviation lobby, which wants up to five new runways built.
The government is currently consultating on airport expansion and in a submission to the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, the network argues that air travel is "good for people and the economy" as long as attention is paid to "the good stewardship of the created order".
The Rev Michael Banfield, the chaplain of Luton airport, who is coordinator of the network, said: "If you want to divide people up into very firm pros and antis, we would have to say we are very pro expansion where it's needed."
He continued: "From a theological point of view, it's about people being able to meet, people being able to explore the world around them and freedom to travel - but I am aware that one person's freedom is another person's nightmare."
The network comprises 29 full-time and part-time chaplains from airports in the UK and Ireland.
Chapels provide a place of worship for passengers and airline staff and are available for counselling in the event of an emergency.
Mr Banfield said the chaplains had differing views on where the additional runways should be built, but they were unanimously against proposals for entirely new airports in north Kent and outside Rugby.
He said he was praying for wisdom in Mr Darling's decision-making and for the aviation industry to take into consideration "the good of the whole earth".
Anti-runway activists say the government has offered no evidence other than historic growth for its prediction that air travel will triple by 2030.
They maintain that demand for flights can be absorbed by maximising the use of existing airports and abolishing £9bn of effective annual tax breaks enjoyed by the industry.
Paul de Zilva, aviation campaigner for Friends of the Earth, described the chaplains' submission as "bland 'thought for the day' stuff". He said: "This isn't a debate about whether people can travel - it's about whether people use sensible modes of transport to get about.
"Here we have people with deep faith who have a role within an industry and who effectively feel they have to defend that industry."
He added that he had not seen anything in the Bible about runway construction.
"God's angels managed to get about by flying without causing as much damage as the current civil aviation industry."