The beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia has warned that bombing Libya is unlikely to help the country move towards democracy and will increase the suffering of its people.
Ekklesia, which promotes conflict transformation and nonviolent responses to injustice, says that it is also contradictory for the UK and US governments to condemn Colonel Gaddafi while arming dictatorial regimes in the region – including Libya, only six months ago.
The thinktank, which works with several Christian peacemaking organisations, has raised four concerns about the bombing campaign.
• The action will inevitably kill civilians and increase the cycle of violence, whatever military targets are destroyed. There is also a real danger of ‘mission creep’.
• The recent resistance to tyranny across North Africa and the Middle East has been characterised by indigenous, grassroots movements. The ability of these movements to operate democratically will be undermined by US and UK military action, in which the priorities will be based on western governments' interests rather than the needs of the region's people. Western intervention may also play into Gaddafi's hands, allowing him to present his opponents as stooges.
• The UK government seems to have jumped at the possibility of military intervention without considering other effective, humanitarian options. These include economic and political pressure, financial assistance and intelligence-sharing with anti-Gaddafi movements and working with the Arab League to prevent the flow of non-Libyan mercenaries to Gaddafi's forces in Libya.
• UK authorities have permitted the sale of weapons to the Gaddafi regime within the last six months, while peaceful protests continue to be suppressed by Bahraini and Saudi forces, who have all received UK weapons in the last year.
Ekklesia associate director Symon Hill commented: "People across North Africa and the Middle East have inspired the world with their courage and commitment to challenging injustice. It is local movements for change that lead countries away from tyranny. Freedom cannot be imposed top-down, least of all by a military intervention. More bombs will mean more deaths, not more democracy.
"The British Prime Minister is bombing Libya only a few months after authorising the sale of arms to the Gaddafi regime. Saudi forces are currently suppressing peaceful protests in Bahrain with armoured vehicles made in Newcastle. If the government wishes to demonstrate a commitment to opposing dictatorship on the world stage, ending all arms sales to oppressive regimes should be the priority, rather than risky military adventurism.
"Many will also find it puzzling and alarming that money has been found for war at a time when it apparently cannot be found for the disability living allowance, higher education, rape crisis centres or libraries," added Hill.
Governments and agencies in the C21st “need to radically re-orient their policies away from armed force and violence as the prime determinants of social change,” says Ekklesia, calling for “long-term investment in conflict transformation, participatory democracy, peacemaking and peace-building techniques” for deployment in situations of conflict and injustice.
Notes to editors
1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world, from a Christian perspective. It has been listed by The Independent newspaper among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religion and politics / current affairs websites in Britain. More: http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml
2. For interviews and comment, please contact Ekklesia associate director Symon Hill (symonDOThillATekklesiaDOTcoDOTuk)
3. Related comment and research from Ekklesia: 'Unarmed power is the future, says thinktank': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14054 Also 'Politics, religion and the Middle East': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14037