Christians ‘want Afghanistan withdrawal timetable’

By Alex Stevenson

A majority of British Christians think the government should set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, a poll has suggested.

Thinktank Ekklesia polled 160 Christians at a summer camp in August. Sixty-one per cent called for a timetable to be announced immediately, while 30 per cent wanted the troops home by December.

The numbers may be surprisingly low, given that nearly a quarter “totally agreed” with the statement that ‘to be a Christian is to be totally committed to nonviolence’.

“While some may bemoan the churches’ loss of status in a post-Christendom society, it seems that Christians’ more marginal position allows them to take a more critical approach to power and war,” Ekklesia director Symon Hill said.

“It is particularly important to recognise this at a time when thousands of churches are about to host commemorations for the dead on Remembrance Day.”

Critics of the poll sought to play down the poll’s significance. One described it as a “self-selecting survey at a predominantly evangelical summer camp”.

Archbishop Rowan Williams launched his own attack on the government over its involvement in the Iraq war earlier this month.

In a service at St Paul’s Cathedral to honour the 179 British soldiers who died in Iraq he said both “policymakers and commentators” talked about going to war “without really measuring the price, the cost of justice”.

Saturday saw the latest protest march in London against the war in Afghanistan. Among those attending was Peter Brierley, the father of a dead soldier.

He refused to shake the hand of former Tony Blair at the St Paul’s service because it “has my son’s blood on it”.

A spokesperson for the Archbishop said: “The Church of England continues to support our armed forces.”