June 20, 2006
The Rt. Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
The Justice and Peace Unit of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of New Westminster would like to add our voice to those who call for the role of the Canadian military in Afghanistan to turn from military involvement to active support for peacemaking and reconciliation.
The areas in which the Canadian military is making a positive difference in Afghanistan seem to be in police training, rural development, land mine clearing and repatriation of refugees. These are practical and useful to the Afghan people. The other part of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, of military combat, is the destructive aspect that will not bring peace, and will not help the people re-build their lives.
Canada has got to move our military away from participation in combat and move it actively to support the Afghan Government's initiative: "National Peace and Reconciliation Commission." The Afghan government needs enhanced technical support to make such an initiative meaningful.
Our Canadian military could support such a national peacemaking initiative in helping concretely with the mechanism to make these meetings happen. There are many groupings in Afghanistan who have national concerns and they are being lumped in with terrorists. They are not terrorists. They do have national and regional grievances and want a way for these to be heard.
Canada is in the position to invest in peace in Afghanistan as part of our contribution to peace and stability in the country. The National Peace and Reconciliation established by the Afghan govenment is poorly resourced and does not have the technical capacity to run peace dialogues between various groups. Canada could help this to happen, and do what needs to be done to create an atmosphere of trust by helping in this way and getting out of the combat role.
This gap which exists right now in Afghanistan, in which very little is happening to get a peace and reconciliation initiative on a national level off the ground and working means more deaths every day. Canada could make a real difference for peace and save lives of Canadians and Afghans.
As Christians we believe that we cannot do violence to create peace. Jesus showed us in his life that violence needed to stop. We teach our children that they must solve their differences with words, and then we take our country into military combat. There can only be lasting peace when we do the long and hard work of peace. We are not helping the Afghan people at this time by having our Canadian soldiers be part of combat.
We can serve the real needs of peace with the direction of the Afghan government, by giving the technical and logistic support and the leadership needed to help bring people together in regional meetings across Afghanistan for peace and reconciliation talks.
Canada needs to live into the contribution we can make to peace in our world in Afghanistan and Darfur and other regions in the world. There, our presence as peacemakers and peacekeepers will make a long lasting difference to the lives of many.
"Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silence of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and duty." Archbishop Oscar A. Romaro.
The Rev. Margaret Marquardt
Chair, Justice and Peace Unite
Dioceses of New Westminister
The Rev. Don Johnson
Chair, Social Justice Committe
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada
CC: The Hon. Bill Graham, MP
The Hon. Gilles Duceppe, MP
The Hon. Jack Layton, MP