Some churches agree to the use of force to protect the vulnerable when the government fails to protect its citizens.
The idea of “responsibility to protect” was the controversial topic at a debate hosted by the World Council of Churches’ workshop at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya this week.
Church groups, while recognizing that it is the main responsibility of the national government to protect its citizens, agreed that if the government fails to fulfill its responsibility the international community has a duty to intervene in the state’s internal affairs.
"At certain times, resorting to force is necessary," said Ernie Regehr, former director and co-founder of Project Ploughshares, a Canadian Council of Churches agency, in a report on Thursday.
Regehr emphasized the use of force should only occur when prevention has failed.
“It's is not about regime change, but protection of vulnerable people in immediate peril of grave human rights violations," said Regehr.
Cases such as the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the plight of children in northern Uganda were given as examples of when force is necessary to protect the vulnerable.
Similarly, the Darfur genocide has caused many to question whether the international community should use force to prevent the death of thousands of defenseless people. The Sudanese government has been accused of backing the janjaweed, an Arabic militia group, blamed for the deaths of 200,000 people and the forced migration of 2.5 million inhabitants from their homes.
Despite countless negotiations and more recently, an agreement between the Sudanese president and the United Nations to allow peacekeeping troops into Darfur, the situation has not improved and has worsened, according to recent reports.
A delegate member accompanying New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in a recent trip to Darfur also agreed to the use of force, given the situation in Darfur.
“These people (Sudanese government and rebel groups) do not want to do these things. They are being made to do these things,” said Save Darfur senior international coordinator ambassador (ret.) Lawrence Rossin in January, adding that amounts of coercion and pressure are necessary. “Too long it has been as if we are dealing with interlocutors who really wanted to do these things but couldn’t find their way to do these things… And that is not the case.”
The World Social Forum is an event that convenes activists, NGOs (non-governmental organization), and concerned groups to discuss issues such as poverty, trade, HIV/AIDS, and human rights.
This year, some 46,000 people participated in the 7th WSF which was held entirely in Africa for the first time.