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Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Archbishop, Sudan and Israel

"The mechanisms by which international aid is delivered are so slow that the people of war-torn Southern Sudan, even a whole year after the peace agreement, are still waiting for basic aid, and too few voices are raised in the wealthy world to protest."

“In Darfur, neither national nor international forces have found a way of breaking the cycle of brutal violence and terror. Too many of us human beings, it seems, are content that death should be at work in others so long as our own life is unaffected.”

I suppose you could just about detect a criticism of the Sudanese government wrapped up in the second sentence. Though the implication that they are interested in even trying to break a cycle which they are in large measure responsible for setting in motion gives them a wholly undeserved benefit of the doubt. And though the really clear-cut denunciation is reserved for the 'rich world', charged with failing to throw enough money at a problem for which it bears essentially no direct responsibility at all. And though the last sentence promptly lets the Khartoum regime off the hook by expanding the sphere of blame to embrace human nature in general. We're all to blame!

Any reader enjoying even a passing acquaintance with the Church of England will not be surprised to learn that the quote emanates from an Anglican prelate. To be precise, it's from an Eastertide Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

How should the C of E react corporately to the injustices of this world? Far be it from me to deny it its historic prerogative of well-meaning hand-wringing over human frailty. Equally, there is a place for fearless denunciation of specific misdeeds on the part of specific organizations, even accompanied by the threat of sanctions. But every time the horrors of Darfur call forth the former response, the singling out of Israel's war against terrorists for the latter approach becomes still more grossly offensive. Is there somewhere in the Archbishop's formidable brain an ethical big picture in which this contradiction is reconciled? If so, it really is time he shared it with the rest of us.

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