At last year’s commemoration, Archbishop Sentamu joined in paying tribute to 14 British military personnel who perished in a Nimrod strike aircraft in Afghanistan in 2006 while on reconnaissance against the Taliban. After the service Sentamu sat in the co-pilot’s seat of a Nimrod for a test run of its engines.
Archbishop Sentamu seems to sense a special spiritual responsibility towards the RAF and Britain’s armed forces. Five years ago he visited an RAF training session and personally flew in a Grob Tutor aircraft. “I am on record as saying that the Royal Air Force is the best in the world,” he later said. “They have a difficult job to carry out which they manage to do with skill, flair and dedication. The men and women of the RAF, like all in the armed forces, deserve our support for their unswerving commitment in the face of danger and their willingness to do so on behalf of each of us.”
The next year Archbishop Sentamu personally jumped from a military aircraft at 12,500 feet as a fundraiser for families of the British killed and wounded in Afghanistan. “I give thanks today for the amazing sacrifice our armed forces and their families have made,” he remarked later. He waved the victory sign as he fell through the sky with “Red Devil” paratroopers. And he has said if he had joined the armed forces he would have been first a pilot and secondly a parachutist. The military’s risks and service “in defense of the crown” contrast with the current times’ preoccupation with “me-me-me” and merit the nation’s gratitude, he has said.
Sentamu had opposed the Iraq War but his opposition was “no longer relevant” after the war began, he has explained of his solidarity with the British military and its exertions in “defense of our liberties.” The Archbishop of York, unlike many native born prelates in the Church of England, is unashamed of patriotism and military service, which he rightly understands as service to God and humanity when properly performed.
Would that other Western, senior church officials shared Sentamu’s good instincts and robust defense of lawful societies. The remaining 3 years of commemorating World War II’s struggle between liberty and slavery would be an ideal time for them to rediscover what the Archbishop of York evidently never forgot.
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