Archbishop Paul-André Durocher

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher

April 20, 2015

Canada and the global community need to offer a broader response than military intervention to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, say Canadian Church leaders.

"We are convinced that military efforts to end or limit the present atrocities must be accompanied by other steps," said a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed by 23 leaders of the nation's churches.

Among the signatories of the April 6 letter sent by the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) was Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

"Military intervention will not bring an end to the conflict without a broader internationally sanctioned strategy for achieving sustainable peace in Iraq and Syria," the letter said.

The letter does not oppose military intervention altogether, although it raises doubts about its long-term effectiveness.

The Church leaders said the churches' regional partners have expressed concern that acts of violence will either create new hostilities or renew old ones, harm the social fabric and make achieving peace more difficult.

While commending the government for taking seriously the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and for the substantial humanitarian assistance to displaced persons in the region, the letter said "the needs continue to be enormous."

"Canada can and should do more," the Church leaders said.


Other steps the Canadian government should take include strengthening its diplomatic efforts, increasing humanitarian assistance and support for refugees, and supporting civil society organizations, they said.

They also urged the government to work to control the spread of arms, and focus on the protection of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Durocher said the CCCB "felt it was important to raise the voices of our brothers and sisters who are living in the Middle East in front of the government and in front of the general Canadian population."

Catholic leaders in the Middle East are divided on the issue of military intervention, he said.

"Not everyone has the same read on what is needed. But obviously everyone is agreed that military intervention alone is not enough."

The letter stressed the need for diplomacy to stop the flow of resources and arms to ISIS.

"We lament but are aware that Canada has been adding to the stores of lethal and non-lethal military equipment, therefore Canada must ensure that these supplies are not diverted to other parties in the conflict," it said.


Durocher said we have to recognize Canada sells armaments. "We don't speak about this. Where do our arms go and where to they end up?"

Canada should do more to help refugees and internally displaced persons, the letter said.

The Church leaders also sought "reassurance" that a commitment to resettle Syrian refugees is "not at the expense" of refugees from other countries.

The letter also affirmed the Church leaders' desire for dialogue with Muslims.

"We condemn any attempts to demonize Islam and peaceful, law-abiding Muslims," it said.