3 Sep 2014

Archbishop: we must counter the ‘obscene simplicity’ of IS ideology

Speaking to me after an interfaith vigil for peace in Iraq, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby deplored the lack of a global strategy from world leaders for what he said could not be understood as a local problem.

“[extremist activity] is happening in Iraq, it’s happening as we speak in northern Nigeria, it’s happening in many other parts of the world. This is not a local issue.

“We can’t just take one place and then think we’ve dealt with it – it’s a Hydra with many heads.”

So are we losing the propaganda war?

The Archbishop tells me it goes deeper than that: “I think it goes to the heart of what motivates people and gives them a sense that they have value in life and a purpose in life – and that’s as much a spiritual as a practical question.

“It’s not mere propaganda, it’s not just losing arguments. People don’t go to the Middle East because they’ve heard a good argument from someone in a sermon, or elsewhere – they good because they have a sense that they have been called to do that.”

And what is that driving force?

According to the Archbishop, it is a “misshapen presentation of faith”.

“It is a distortion, but a distortion that has a simplicity, and that simplicity appears to have attracted some people and we need to counter that .. by giving people a purpose in life that is different from that obscene and terrible simplicity.”

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