NZ bishops support Kiwi military trainers going to Iraq

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have backed the New Zealand Government’s decision to deploy military personnel to help train Iraqi forces.

The bishops released a statement on February 24, the same day Prime Minister John Key officially announced the deployment of up to 143 personnel.

The deployment, likely in partnership with Australia, will probably start in May.

The bishops’ statement opens by saying New Zealand can no longer “watch from the sidelines as the Islamic State continues to inflict immense suffering and brutality on the people of Iraq”.

The bishops go on to cite Pope Francis who said it is “licit to stop an unjust aggressor”.

On behalf of the bishops, Cardinal John Dew said: “If by providing training to the Iraqi Army we can assist them to stop the aggressor in their land, then as a matter of promoting the common good we should provide that assistance.”

“Substantial humanitarian support should also be part of New Zealand’s involvement in Iraq,” Cardinal Dew said.

He noted that New Zealand’s place on the United Nations’ Security Council gives this country a unique place of influence in global affairs.

This could be “used to advocate strongly in the UN forum for further sanctions and other actions which will stop the flow of arms to ISIS, and prevent it making money from Iraqi assets it has captured”, Cardinal Dew said.

“We urge Christians to pray unceasingly for the people of the Middle East and we pray for global leaders in their efforts to stop those who inflict this brutality on others,” he added.

Two weeks before Mr Key’s announcement, Peace Movement Aotearoa released an open letter opposing deployment of New Zealand military personnel in Iraq and Syria.

Among the 30 representatives of peace, justice and faith organisations and academics who signed the letter were Pax Christi’s Kevin McBride and Fr Peter Murnane, OP, of Waihopai Ploughshares.

The letter stated that “further involvement of western armed forces in the Middle East, whether in a training or combat capacity, will do nothing but bring more violence, killing and hardship to the peoples there”.

“Military trainers will add nothing of value to peace processes in the region.”

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Key noted that New Zealand would step up humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.


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