Ecumenical News International

EKD military bishop skeptical about German defense force participation in Mali

January 17, 2013

Detmold (epd). Protestant military bishop Martin Dutzmann is skeptical about the engagement of European troops in Mali. There had been signs of the conflict for a long time, he told Evangelical Press Service (EPD) on Thursday in Detmold. "I doubt whether all political options to counter this conflict have been tried," underlined Dutzmann, whose main job is superintendent of the Church of Lippe. Military force was only justified as a last resort, when all possibilities had been exhausted, he said.

Dutzmann took the opportunity to refer to the peace memorandum of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). In Afghanistan military engagements had led to terrorists moving to other countries. Such a result was probable in Mali as well. With the French intervention in Mali the number of refugees had risen by 30,000. "All of that makes me very reluctant to accept military action," said Dutzmann.

Like the situation in Afghanistan, the military bishop cannot recognize any strategy in Mali either. The idea is to close off the withdrawal routes for terrorists. "But it is not clear how that is to happen, how long will it last and how we should imagine it will end," warned the theologian. The soldiers were expecting clear roadmaps.

Even if the federal defense forces initially only sent transport planes, Germany would also be involved in military conflict. But participation in conflicts abroad still had to be decided by the German parliament, Dutzmann underlined, with reference to discussions on shortening the approval process.

Furthermore, the military bishop exhorted listeners be aware of the limits to the burden on the federal defense force, in view of increasing action abroad. The soldiers were already under great strain through the restructuring of the armed forces. Foreign engagement also meant longer separation from families and psychological and physical illness. That was a greater challenge for pastoral care. In any case it was clear that the military chaplains would go with the soldiers wherever they were sent, regardless of the church's ethical judgment of the particular engagement, Dutzmann emphasized. (epd)



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