Anglican Priest to ST: Foreign policies should not impose their will over other nations to serve their own agendas


The Rev Andrew Ashdown has argued that we live in a disturbing context in which global geopolitics, economic dominance, and military power often seem more important than the common good and needs of people and nations. 

In an interview with the Syria Times e-newspaper, the Anglican priest said: “‘Democracy’ seems to have come to mean little more than holding to the same political and economic systems and policies which support the agendas and interests of the most powerful nations, who are willing to destroy nations in order to impose them.  Ordinary people have little power even in those nations where ‘democracy’ is claimed.  They may have freedom of speech, and that is important and is a strength of ‘democracy’, but governments and the systems around them ensure that the status quo of dominant systems prevail, whatever the people say. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer, and the social structures of society get weaker. At the ‘top’ of the pyramid is power and economics, and at the bottom, are the interests of the people.  It should be the other way around. ”

His answer to a question about why the voice of warmongers is louder than the voice of pacifists was: “War secures the dominance of the powerful, and the prevailing of the economic and political interests of the powerful.   Of course, the arms industry is relevant as well – a multi-billion dollar industry that enriches individuals and governments and secures a cycle of power and control.  The interests/well-being of ordinary people or the millions of innocent civilians who are the victims of this industry and the political ‘games’ of the powerful are irrelevant and meaningless to them.  There is no morality.  Pacifism challenges these systems and the political and economic power they provide for the few, so pacifists are ignored – or crushed.”

The Priest put forwards a five- point solution to prevent the eruption of more wars in the world.

 “In my opinion, governments should act politically and economically for the common good, and foreign policies should consider the needs and interests of other nations in their international dealings, and not impose their will over other nations simply to serve their own agendas and interests. It is for citizens of nations to choose their own future. Moreover, the skills and resources of the people and the country must be invested and valued, while the powers and production of the Arms industry must be controlled and limited. Add to that, People of faith should pay more heed to the essence of tolerance, peace, healing and love, which is at the heart of God’s nature, as expressed in most religious belief and doctrine,” Rev Ashdown stated.

He has visited Syria 10 times

Asked about the difference between his recent visit to Syria and the first one, the priest replied: “ I first visited Syria in 2003, led tour groups to Syria in 2006 and 2008, and came on holiday with my family in 2010.  Since 2014, I have visited Syria 10 times, both as a member of delegations, and travelling independently.  Before the conflict, it was exciting to see how Syria was opening up and developing.  I remember in 2010 how tourist and economic infrastructures were being developed and there was a sense of hope for the future, despite the overflow from the Iraq crisis, and people displaced from the drought in the north-east of the country.  A guide told me in 2008: “Come back to Syria in five years time: Syria will be the economic power-house and tourist center of the Middle East!”

He went on to say: “It was heart-breaking to visit Syria several times at the height of the conflict: to experience Damascus, Homs, Aleppo when shells were falling constantly and car-bombs were exploding frequently. In 2014 - 2016, the fear, despair and pain were tangible. It was a profoundly moving experience but also a privilege to be in Aleppo when the east of the city was liberated in December 2016.  I witnessed the relief of the city and the celebrations when the liberation was announced.  Then I was amongst the first people to enter areas of East Aleppo and the Old City within hours of their liberation.  Seeing the destruction, and listening to the horrific stories of what people had experienced there moved me to tears.” 

Visiting Syria in 2017 and 2018 has brought new hope, according to Rev Ashdown, who has explained how It has been so encouraging to see the rapid pace in which reconstruction is taking place in some places and how quickly life is returning to areas that were previously devastated.

 Syria can be a place where people of all communities can co-exist, both in peacetime and in times of conflict

 “It is wonderful to be able to wander safely in towns and cities where previously there was constant risk of attack.  It is also inspiring to witness how resilient the Syrian people are, and how people from all communities are working to rebuild society and community and working in numerous projects for those most affected by the conflict.  There is of course a long way to go, but I believe the Syrian people have the courage, the will and the resilience to recover,” the priest said, expressing how he has been deeply humbled and inspired by the faith, courage and resilience of the Syrian people..

 He added: “One of the greatest challenges perhaps in the post-conflict situation I think is how Syrians will recover trust and reconcile with each other after so much violence, hatred and pain.  After so much trauma, restoring peace will be a slow and difficult process.  Only Syrians can do this.  But there are many examples around the world, such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, where, despite conflicts involving huge brutality, violence and hatred, communities have learned, very often with the help and guidance of local faith leaders, to reconcile and to live together once again.” 

 He hopes and prays that Syrians may take strength, and perhaps even advice from such examples, to assist the long journey of restoring trust, peace and common vision in Syrian society.

 Rev Ashdown concluded by saying: “Syrians have already proved their amazing capacity to rebuild neighborhoods, towns and villages.  They have proved their deep desire to resist sectarian violence and embrace plurality.  The greatest challenge may be to truly embrace peace with each other in the heart and the soul.    Syria has already proved that it can be a place where people of all communities can co-exist, both in peacetime and in times of conflict. The next step is to overcome the effects of violence and hatred, and restore cohesion and trust.  I believe Syrians can do it.  I hope and pray that they will. I will always be an admirer and a supporter of this beautiful country and her remarkable people.  God bless Syria, her people, and all who lead and protect her.  


Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour