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Baptists to Challenge Government on Drones 

Baptists have agreed to challenge the Government on its use of drones and have committed to encouraging churches to reflect biblically on the issue

The decisions were made after Baptist Union Council considered a report on the ethics of Armed Unmanned Air Systems - more commonly known as drones - drawn up by a group of policy experts from the Joint Public Issues (JPIT) team.

This report, entitled Drones: Ethical Dilemmas in the Application of Military Force, was accompanied by a series of recommendations later approved by Council members.

Drones have killed an estimated 3,000 people in Pakistan, explained the Revd Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society team leader. Their use was now ‘prolific‘, and had given rise to a number of ethical concerns.

Should people be targeted when not in armed conflict? What factors determine that a person is killed with a missile rather than captured? By removing the loss of casualties, could drones actually increase of the possibility of war, and make targeted killing more seductive?

He said it wasn’t just an issue for the US, which contravenes conventional interpretations of international law - the UK used them, too. However, their use by the UK was ‘shrouded in secrecy’ because the Government releases few details.

The report, which has already been approved by the Methodist Conference and United Reformed Church General Assembly, highlighted the tension between ‘engaging with the reality that drones are here to stay’, while remaining committed to ‘the reality that peacemaking is at the heart of the teaching of Jesus’.

Mr Keyworth said the resolution before Council ‘charges us with Christian thought and input, creating Christian study for our churches.’

There were six recommendations. They included instructing the Joint Public Issues Team to produce appropriate materials to enable churches to reflect biblically on the issues raised, as well as reaffirming the Christian vocation of peacemaking.

Petitioning the UK Government to publish as much information as possible concerning strategy and the effect of drone strikes, and urging it to explore ways in which the international community might implement an arms control regime were also there.

Mr Keyworth said by adopting the recommendations it would both ‘aid our ecumenical working’ as well as strengthening the JPIT position with the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). JPIT has an ongoing discussion with the MOD and will next meet with them in April.

Before voting on the resolution, delegates were asked for ways in which something like this could ‘earth’ itself in local churches. Hearing the opinions of both chaplains and army personnel, arguments for against and an outline of the just war theory were mentioned, as was the BUGB-produced video on peace.

The Revd Simon Woodman, moderator of the Faith and Unity executive, said it was a missional issue - bringing God’s Kingdom here on earth. It raised issues of peace and justice.

Revealing that he had published a precis of the report in his church magazine, he encouraged members to find ‘creative ways of sharing it in their congregations.’

‘Surely having this kind of engagement is a really important part of who we are,’ he added.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 23:41
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