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lorna dueck

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Something significant is missing in Canada's battle for liberty in Afghanistan. It is the spiritual armour our military should be getting from the front lines of the Canadian church.

This may not be the polite time to raise this issue, as mourners overflow clergy-led funerals for fallen soldiers, but we desperately need to awaken to the reality that our spiritual truths exist for more than burying the dead.

The homecoming military caskets are symbols of the vulnerability and apparent hopelessness in which the nation is engaged. How bad is it? Appalling. The recent deaths of four soldiers and a journalist happened not in a battle zone, but near Canada's model village of reconstruction just outside Kandahar.

Even there, for security reasons, Afghan reporters remained unnamed as they wrote for The Globe and Mail describing the bomb blast. They reported that a lone man placed wires in the mud and sat down behind a crumbling wall, waiting for soldiers. He watched for the perfect target and, with his device of wires, a small battery and a bomb that probably cost less than $100 to make, he shook confidence in the Canadian sacrifice of eight years and millions of dollars in military and aid supplies.

Jesus challenged his followers to love so deeply that they would be willing to die for the well-being of others. It is a seldom-practised doctrine, but in times of war, it is the doctrine to lean on, a rationale to assure us that life-risking efforts have been inspired by the highest ideal.

When Christ called for that level of sacrifice, it was in the context of an interconnected group of followers. It's easy to lose sight that the interconnection applied today means that it's not just government and soldiers in fatigues who should be carrying the burden in Afghanistan, but all Christians.

There is no doubt that love for others is what inspired the Canadian Council of Churches to get involved in this difficult issue. The ecumenical group, which represents 85 per cent of Canadian Christians, presented a brief last month to the federal government's Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan and appealed to the Prime Minister to do something about what it called a "hurting stalemate."

These Christian leaders urge that human security, not anti-terrorism and national security, become the focus of Canada's efforts. They say we should support Afghans in local reconciliations and our influence should be used to promote diplomacy and negotiations aimed at ending the conflict.

However, with all the evidence that the world's strongest or most clever physical resources are not adequate for this war, the Canadian church still fails to fully mobilize its best weapon: sustained ardent prayer that "extinguishes evil."

Why are we so quiet about praying for our soldiers in Afghanistan?

First, we do not have a national church. What we have instead are individual groups of varying sizes and agendas all across Canada focused on countless micro-battles to improve personal lives. Because of that, our belief that prayer does something we cannot has been weakened and we are ill practised at believing that prayer can be engaged for combatting systemic sin. We tend to operate without mystery, acting as though it is all about human efforts, leaving us too busy to schedule time and space to just sit and appeal to God for help.

Let's admit that engaging in a war imbued with a religious reality complicates our timid political correctness. Rather, let's believe Canadian Muslims when they say they are as appalled as we are by the Taliban hijacking Islam, and let's have both faith groups launch prayer for change.

Community prayer for our military was a practice of old, when wars were waged with a higher death count and the nation was more practised at knowing that faith was for more than just funerals. It's time to bring it back.

Lorna Dueck is executive producer of Listen Up TV.

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