A Roman Catholic bishop in Wales has sparked controversy after calling for an increase in military spending. He suggested that British military involvement in Afghanistan would end sooner if there were increased funding for the war there.
The Bishop of Minevia, Tom Burns, made his comments in Swansea at the funeral of a UK soldier killed in Afghanistan, Jonathan Burgess.
But his comments are directly at odds with the many Christian campaigners who have called for military expenditure to be redirected towards tackling the roots of conflict and providing longer-term security.
“To our politicians and civil servants I ask these questions,” said Burns, “When will Afghan institutions rise out of the dust to take responsibility for their own affairs?”
He continued, “When will there be a surge in funding to achieve this and for ongoing military vehicles, more and better helicopters and better intelligence - all of which are so badly needed? If this were done surely this will mean fewer lives will be sacrificed in the future.”
His implication that the Afghan war could be won simply by spending more money on military equipment appears to buy into the rhetoric used by the Conservative Party and parts of the media, who concentrate on this issue, rather than the wider questions of the ethics and effectiveness of the war.
But Burns gave the impression that he considered the issue straightforward, asking “Why should there be any more excuses? What else is there to be done than this?"
The bishop, a former Royal Navy chaplain, was speaking at the Cathedral Church of St Joseph in Greenhill, Swansea.
Christians campaigning for nonviolent solutions to conflict may well consider Burns' remarks to be undermining their efforts. Earlier this year, the Roman Catholic NGO Pax Christi criticised the “boots or bombs” approach to “defence” spending, suggesting that “justice [not armed force] brings peace and security”.