Following the announcement that the Iraq war inquiry will be held in private, it has been suggested today that Armed Forces Day should be an opportunity to think honestly about military intervention rather than an excuse to divert attention away from the realities of war.
A number of organisations and individuals involved in non-violent conflict resolution, as well as those opposed to recent wars, have raised questions about how the day is being used.
Now the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia has produced a wide-ranging collection of online resources (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/resources/armed_forces_day ) to assist churches and others in engaging with the issues raised by the Day, which will be held for the first time on 27 June 2009.
"We should use this new official day not to exonerate government policy but to question it" said Ekklesia's associate director Symon Hill, who in a previous role was involved in the legal case to stop the Serious Fraud Office dropping an investigation into arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
He continued: "It is now widely recognised that the UK's recent military actions have been disastrous and counterproductive. Thousands have died and many problems remain unsolved. We need a different approach - not least the development of unarmed forces: people going into situations of conflict with peacemaking skills, not guns or contracts."
Hill stressed that Ekklesia's call for an alternative perspective reflected its respect for members of the armed forces by addressing at a deeper level the conflicts which end up making them, as well as millions of civilians, the victims of an unending cycle of violence.
Ekklesia is urging churches which are observing Armed Forces Day to pray for members of the armed forces and for all those affected by war, without being drawn into a government agenda.
It is also drawing attention to a number of church- based initiatives around the world including Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and The World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme, which help to build a just peace in areas of conflict.
Christian Peacemaker Teams in the UK is currently recruiting (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9621 ) people for non-violence training in October 2009, preparatory to delegations and peace brigades going to conflict zones around the world.
Resources for Armed Forces Day - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/resources/armed_forces_day