“So what would you do, Jayne, would you shoot or not?”
I remember the silence as everyone paused from their conversations and looked at me, waiting for my reply. We were sitting by a stream in the heart of the Armenian countryside, not a road or a building in sight – a scene of idyllic beauty with the midday sun blazing down on us, and Caroline’s eyes boring into me. It was our first major argument, which is rare for friends who have been travelling together for weeks – especially given one of her favorite sayings is “fish and friends both smell after 3 days!”
Accompanying the Baroness Cox of Queensbury in Armenia is such an enormous privilege – anyone who has been fortunate enough to do so will know it’s akin to travelling with the Queen. She is their national treasure. A courageous heroine who most Armenians regard as their only true Western ally given her bravery in flying in aid and medical supplies during the 1990s war over Nargorno-Karabakh (no, I hadn’t been aware of it either).
We were sitting with an Armenian Orthodox priest who Caroline had known for years. He had defended the holy city of Gandzasar (pictured) – Armenia’s equivalent to Canterbury – against the Azeris. Women, children, the wounded and infirm were all walled up in the fortress city – and there he had stood, alone, with an AK-22 riffle against the troops.
I had asserted that I thought it was wrong to kill – citing like any good evangelical a range of bible verses against this. I had of course majored on the sixth commandment, and backed up my argument by saying that I thought that God would always provide a way out.
“So would you shoot?”
The question rang round my head. My text book evangelical response was “no”, and yet I knew deep down in my heart that, yes, of course I would have open fired. At least I hoped I would have – there were too many innocent lives at stake, and it needed a courageous leader to take on a fierce enemy hell bent on destroying them all with no signs of any mercy. Which is what this priest had of course done, and in so doing had saved hundreds of lives – as well as sending a strong signal of defiance to the invading forces.
My innocence was lost. War was no longer so black and white – there was no zero sum game, only one where the most vulnerable get hurt unless people stand up for them.
We would do well to remember this when weighing the options of whether we should go to war with Syria or not. There is a cost to acting and a cost to not acting – the challenge is to work out which has the higher price, and who is most likely to pay it.