Christian MPs Torn on Bombing ISIS in Syria

Turkish military use a water cannon to stop Syrian refugees as they wait behind the border fences to cross into Turkey ((Photo: Reuters/Osman Orsal))

Christian MPs are torn on whether to support British air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

The Government published a motion this afternoon (Tuesday) and MPs will be asked to vote tomorrow evening. The twelve-point plan, approved by the cabinet this morning, says ISIS poses a "direct threat" to the UK and insists there is a legal basis for action.

Around 10pm tomorrow night, MPs will be asked to support "her majesty's government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria."

The majority of Conservatives will support air strikes and the majority of Labour are expected to oppose. However considerable rebellions, particularly among Labour MPs may tilt the vote in favour of supporting air strikes. The Liberal Democrats, led by Tim Farron, have said there are "ongoing discussions" and have not decided how they will vote. Similarly the SNP have been unclear although it is expected they will oppose.

However Christian Today has found that Christian MPs are split on the issue.

Gavin Shuker and David Lammy, two Christian Labour MPs have been vocal in their opposition of air strikes.

Lammy, the MP for Tottenham said he is not "an instinctive ideologue or a pacifist" but did not think he had heard a "compelling case" for military action. In a statement he argued "there is a worrying lack of strategy" after military intervention and said "air strikes will harm civilians and could serve as a key recruitment tool for ISIS."

Ultimately, he said, "military strikes will deepen the power vacuum in Syria that has allowed ISIS to spread its hateful ideology."

Lammy received support from his fellow Christian Labour MP, Gavin Shuker, who said he "cannot envisage a circumstance in which I would support military action in Syria."

However Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter and another Christian has said he is leaning towards supporting "the RAF extending its existing action against Daesh (ISIS) to Syria."

Although Bradshaw had not confirmed his voting intention at the time of writing it is likely he will vote in favour of air strikes and be one of up to 50 Labour MPs expected to go against Jeremy Corbyn's wishes.

Bradshaw argued that "Daesh (ISIS) are a real and present threat to Britain" and the failure to intervene militarily in Syria "has led to the worst humanitarian and refugee crisis since World War Two, with half the Syrian population killed or displaced."

Christians in the Conservative party are equally split. Renowned rebel and Roman Catholic Stephen McPartland, the Tory MP for Stevenage has vowed to "vote against military action in Syria."

"No one is winning and millions of innocent civilians in Syria are suffering, our efforts should be focused on reconciliation rather than firing a few missiles to salve international consciences," he said on his website.

But Jeremy Lefroy, the Conservative MP for Stafford has he "very much supports" the Prime Minister's plan to extend British air strikes against ISIS into Syria.

David Burrowes, another outspoken Christian in the Tory party also voiced his support and has said he agrees with David Cameron's position.

The divide of opinion among Christian MP reflects contrasting opinions in the church. The Church of England's synod unanimously passed a motion which implied support for military action with Justin Welby adding that armed conflict was "almost inevitable" to defeat ISIS.

However the archbishop of the Church of Wales, which is separate from the Church of England but part of the Anglican Communion, has urged MPs to oppose the motion and warned there is "no moral case for bombing Syria."

"It is obvious," he said, "that even on a just war argument, a clear moral case for bombing Syria cannot be advanced."

However many MPs remain undecided and will spend tonight making their decision. Fiona Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton refused to commit either way but said "safety and security" of her constituents remained her primary concern.

"I believe it is important I most carefully listen to and consider all the arguments and views on this issue, including those from my constituents, and this I am doing in the run up to this vote," she told Christian Today.

As MPs of all religious and political persuasions consider their decision this evening, hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the Labour HQ and Conservative HQ to demonstrate against the strikes.

"Bombs are not the solution, they are the problem," one protester told Christian Today. "I don't think it is a very practical approach."

This article was originally published in Christian Today. 

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