If war with ISIS comes to a crusade-like battle between opposing religious forces, count some members of the Church of England in.
In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Church Of England clergy passed a movement calling on the United Kingdom to increase the cap on Syrian refugees allowed into the country, which is currently set at 20,000 migrants. In a speech before the vote, the motion’s author Bishop Paul Butler spoke on the Christian responsibility to aid vulnerable refugee populations.
But some clergy, including Butler, acknowledged that full implementation of the plan could mean Church support of military force in resettling migrants.
During a debate before the vote, Butler cautioned it would be "likely that some [military action] will be needed" to secure safe travel and resettlement for Syrian refugees, the Christian publication Premier reports.
Use of military force is absent from the motion’s text, which calls on the UK government “to work with international partners in Europe and elsewhere to help establish safe and legal routes to places of safety, including this country, for refugees who are vulnerable and at severe risk”.
But Church of England clergy, who approved the motion 333-0 with three abstentions, acknowledge the text’s broader implications.
"I think we need to recognise though... the motion essentially commits us to supporting the use of armed forces overseas,” Bishop Justin Welby, one of the motion’s supporters said during discussion. "The reality of working in those areas to create safe ways of routes to places of safety must include some kind of forceful response.”
"It is almost impossible to see how it could be done otherwise,” he added.
The British government has currently committed to accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years, a task Prime Minister David Cameron called Britain’s “moral responsibility”. His response has been subject to broad criticism from the Church of England and members of Parliament, who say the resettlement plan is too small, too slow, and too short-sighted in that it offers refugees short-term “humanitarian” protection, rather than the right to permanently resettle.
“Many in the churches believe that, if we put our backs into working with others to create the capacity, we can make 20,000 a number that can be comfortably exceeded,” Paul said before the vote.
Cameron is expected this Thursday to push Parliament to allow airstrikes on ISIS-held territory in Syria.
But Church of England clergy are already betting on escalation; armed conflict is “almost inevitable,” Bishop Welby said.