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article imageU.K. Bishop Apologizes After Appearing to Praise the Taliban

By Chris Dade     Dec 14, 2009 in World
The man recently appointed Church of England Bishop to the U.K.'s armed forces has apologized for comments he made to a British newspaper that were interpreted as praise for the Taliban.
The Right Reverend Dr Stephen Venner was until last month the Bishop of Dover and since 2007 he has been Bishop for the Falklands.
Having recently taken up the post of Bishop to the Armed Forces - to which he was appointed by the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams - on Monday Dr. Venner gave an interview to the Telegraph.
But that interview has now become the center of some controversy after the Bishop appeared to be praising the Taliban, the Islamist organization against which U.K. forces are currently fighting in Afghanistan.
Speaking of his admiration for the forces at present engaged in that fight Bishop Venner went on to say:We’ve been too simplistic in our attitude towards the Taliban. There’s a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation. The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other
Amongst those who took exception to the remarks made by the Bishop was Col. Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan, who accused the Bishop of being naive, emphasizing too that some elements of the Taliban were open to persuasion, whilst others were not. Col. Kemp said that the more zealous members of the Taliban would not identify with the "kind of religion of peace and understanding that the bishop follows".
Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Colchester, a town in Eastern England with a large number of residents serving in the British military, said:What you never do is give comfort to the enemy. It is one thing for people to have respect for their enemy, but there is a world of difference here
Why did he not talk about the loyalty of our troops?
The bishop would have been well advised to concentrate on boosting the morale of our armed forces rather than boosting the morale of our enemy
Insisting that his words were taken out of context and were just a small part of a much longer interview, Bishop Venner has nevertheless apologized if his words have caused offense, telling the BBC:I am not trying to support the Taliban. Very far from it. I am very supportive of our forces. And if what I've said and the way it's been reported, has caused offence, then of course I'm deeply grieved, and very apologetic, and if that comes under the heading of naivety then I plead guilty
Without commenting on the Bishop's assertion that the manner in which the interview was written up had helped give the wrong impression, the Telegraph quotes further from his interview with the BBC in which he noted:The way that the Taliban are waging war in Afghanistan is evil, both in their use of indiscriminate killing and their terrorising of the civilian population. No religion could condone their actions. I give my full support to the British and allied troops who are engaged in the country, seeking to work with the Afghan government to bring stability, democracy and an enduring peace. I acknowledge that long-lasting peace will not be achieved without both defeating the Taliban militants and, over time, by encouraging them to forsake the path of war and to be involved in the future of Afghanistan. Senior military and civilian leaders have expressed similar views and I support their position. We have also to distinguish between the militant Taliban and those of their number who are fighting because they have been coerced into doing so and who fear for their lives if they do not. Clearly, it is only those who reject military action with whom we could talk
According to the Daily Mail earlier in the year an English politician said that the U.K. might be able to learn something from the Taliban with regard to family values. Peter Davies, Mayor of Doncaster, a large town in Northern England, and a member of the English Democrats, observed that Afghanistan had enjoyed an "ordered system of family life" under Taliban rule.
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