Peace group seeks bishops’ statement on war

  • November 23, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s time for Canada’s Catholic bishops to state clearly what they think Canada should be doing in Afghanistan, according to a lay peace group which plans to petition the bishops for a statement before Christmas.

Catholics for Peace — Toronto will meet at the Bathurst Street Paulist Centre Dec. 12 to discuss how to secure a clear policy from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan. At the same time the CCCB Social Affairs Commission will be meeting in Ottawa Dec. 11 and 12 with Afghanistan on the agenda.

Catholics for Peace was disappointed that the bishops refused to sign an Aug. 14 letter to the federal government from the Canadian Council of Churches on Afghanistan. The Canadian Council of Churches asked Ottawa to broker peace talks between Taliban and other insurgent forces and Afghanistan’s national government based in Kabul. The CCCB told The Catholic Register it could not sign the CCC letter because it didn’t go far enough in laying out a peace process.

Catholics for Peace co-founder Deacon Bert Cambre said it’s now incumbent on the bishops to make a positive statement about what kind of peace process they would endorse.

“They’re the leaders of our church. They should be leading the faithful in the way of peace,” Cambre said.

In his closing address at the bishops’ 2007 plenary assembly in October, outgoing conference president Archbishop Andre Guimond said the conference was continuing to talk about Afghanistan.

“Canada is at war and its presence in Afghanistan cannot leave us indifferent,” said the archbishop of Sherbrooke, Que. “There will not be peace in Afghanistan without a true peace process which involves all the parties. This is what Canada especially needs to promote.”

The spur to any peace plan for Afghanistan has to be the futility of combat with insurgent forces in the mountainous Pashtun strongholds of Afghanistan’s south and east, said Project Ploughshares executive director John Seibert. Project Ploughshares is a research arm of the Canadian Council of Churches which works on peace and disarmament issues.

“In terms of proportionality — engagement of force in just war theory — is it proportional to continually engage an insurgency force which has at least some roots and some legitimacy in the population from which it springs, to which even the military have concluded there is no possibility of a military victory, or a military means of defeating them?” asked Seibert. “Is it proportional then to keep engaging in what is effectively counter-strike insurgency operations?”

There’s a long list of issues arising from Afghanistan for religious leaders to consider, said Seibert. Among them:

  • Canada’s military deployment in Afghanistan is Canada’s first major war fighting operation since the Korean War;

  • Afghanistan is now the largest single recipient of Canadian development aid;
  • Canada’s military has been rapidly expanded and modernized so as to be interoperable with the United States’ armed forces;

  • for most Afghans the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force which Canada is part of is indistinguishable from the U.S. war-on-terror Operation Enduring Freedom;

  • Canada’s foreign policy and diplomatic corps have been completely revised without public consultation.

“If any of these issues are important to the Catholic Church they (bishops) should deliberate on them,” said Seibert.

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