Dear Mr. Cameron,
I am writing in regards to the UK Government response to ISIL. I have spent the last few weeks and months horrified at the unfolding tale of ISIL and their progress through Iraq and the surrounding countries. I have often pondered as to what the appropriate response to this should be, with many tears shed and prayers cried out.
Military action is certainly an appealing option, and a seemingly quick solution to the atrocities that have occurred. On the other hand, sitting back and not getting involved is equally appealing. Having said this, my conscience and Christian faith informs me that these two options cannot be the only ways to see peace in the Middle East.
Whilst I agree in part with your outlined actions against ISIL in terms of working with the Iraqi government, supporting the United Nations and the US, providing humanitarian aid, and ensuring the protection of British citizens through counter-terrorism procedures at home, I see another way; which could change the way peace is sought in the World.
This way draws a line in the sand, seeks wholeness in relationships and exposes the world that could be- that the prophet Isaiah speaks of. This world sees no more weeping or crying, no more hunger or thirst, broken hearts, or discouraged young men who feel disempowered to the point that they take up the sword and slaughter their fellow human beings. (Isaiah 65:11-25) Instead, this world sees these swords turned into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks. It sees joy, justice, love, hope, rejoicing and blessing take centrestage and saturate the earth around it.
This way involves following the Way of Jesus, of loving those who hurt us, and asking for forgiveness for when we have wronged. It involves equipping ourselves not through violent means, but through asking to be filled with the fruit of the spirit of God; those of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Some may call me naive for thinking or suggesting such an approach, and to those I would reply that I wholeheartedly agree, but I don’t do so blindly. The basis of my thoughts lies in a God who in dying on a cross showed us that "Evil can be opposed without being mirrored…oppressors can be resisted without being emulated…enemies can be neutralised without being destroyed" (Walter Wink) I confidently hope in a God who promised that one day the Lion will lie with the Lamb, but also recognise that in putting forward this vision, God is inviting us to enact it.
I ask you to imagine disarming ISIL by doing the unexpected. Extend a hand of reconciliation. Ask for forgiveness for the times the UK has taken part in persecuting the Muslim community, and the Middle East at present and historically. Seek forgiveness for the times we have jumped in with guns and bombs, foul words, lies and curses. Pursue forgiveness for the times we presumed to be right, blessed and have the moral high ground, when beneath the evil that lingers amongst this terrorist organisation, also lie lessons to be learned.
We have seen time and time again throughout history that violence leads to more violence. As we remember 100 years since WW1, the war to end all wars, we see that not much has changed. What provoked hatred then, provokes hatred now. This cycle is constantly turning and churning more innocent lives into early graves through starvation, homelessness, injury and hate towards our fellow man.
History also tells us that violence leads not only to the death of others, but also to ourselves; slowly eating us up from the inside out, robbing us of creativity, and the image of God born in us.
Tertullian once said that "Christ in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier." A non-violent approach is hard to imagine, and God knows how much I have struggled to see that there could be any other way out of such an acutely dark and despondent situation. This approach of love is a "harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer." (Dorothy Day)
It requires sacrifice, and those seen to be on "our side" turning against us. It will involve persecution and death to our past selves, ideologies, and potentially to our physical bodies, but as Dr. Martin Luther King demonstrated, "You can wear down evil with love."
Change can happen through this means, though it will no doubt be slower and more costly. I wouldn’t want to be the person to ask the parent of a child who has died fighting in war to forgive the perpetrators, but perhaps as a nation, we can be seen to be a Great Britain and United Kingdom through holding those people up, hurting as they hurt and forgiving our enemies on their behalf. We could follow in the footsteps of Mandela, stand on the shoulders of Willberforce, learn from Ghandi and unearth the hundreds if not thousands or millions whose names are not known, but who have given their lives to the cause of reconciliation and peace throughout the ages. History can be made and the future influenced in this way.
Whilst faith is often spoken of as separate and un-influencing on matters of state and politics, I urge you to seek God and His will on this matter. Seek a third way between violence and pacifism that confronts the evil that is surrounding us, and use your position to demonstrate an alternative way of living that attracts those who want to belong to a movement that changes things – only this time for good, not evil. Do this through bearing their burdens and sufferings, recognising the discrimination that they face, and the persecution that they feel through seeing their Muslim brothers and sisters killed in the Middle East and on their streets here in the UK.
Reject the worldly values of retaliation and retribution, and instead embrace the challenge of peace and love, standing publically and in solidarity with the Muslim community, allowing diversity to shape this situation positively. Together, this would inspire a new way of being and living that sees strength in vulnerability as trust is slowly built back up, and we become a visible source of love to others, a light upon the hill, and salt to flavour the surrounding community as we hold the love and presence of God within us to reach what is an evil and crooked regime.