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British aid worker was ‘evilly killed’ says Welby

19 September 2014

PA

Spreading the message: young British Muslims at the launch on Tuesday of a social media campaign registering their rejection of terrorist actions committed by groups such as Islamic State, at the Active Change Foundation in Leytonstone, east London, on Tuesday 

Spreading the message: young British Muslims at the launch on Tuesday of a social media campaign registering their rejection of terrorist actio...

THE Archbishop of Canterbury added his voice to those around the world who have condemned the murder of the British aid worker David Haines by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria.

Early last Sunday morning, Archbishop Welby tweeted: "In every church let us pray for the family of David Haines, evilly killed in the place he was serving in love for its suffering people."

Later, speaking to the BBC, the Archbishop described the murder as "an act of absolute evil, unqualified, without any light in it at all. There is a sense that within this area, and in many places in the world where this kind of thing is being done, the darkness is deepening. It's being done in the name of faith, but we've heard already today faith leaders from Islam across the world condemning this."

Among the Islamic groups that spoke out against the killing of Mr Haines was the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, which denounced it as a "horrific act of evil. Islam advocates love, respect, and peace, and this abhorrent murder again exposes that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam or any religion. It is barbarity at its worst.

"We stand united with the people of the United Kingdom in unequivocally condemning this gruesome killing, and hope that those responsible are caught and face the full force of the law."

The killing of Western hostages has galvanised international action to confront IS, both through milit-ary power, led by the United States, and through efforts to cut funding and other means of sup-port. On Tuesday, one day after 30 countries had pledged at a meeting in Paris to join a US-led coalition against IS, war planes and drones from the US were in action bolstering Iraqi forces close to Baghdad.

The use of air power in this way may well stop the expansion of IS control in Iraq, and could even force the jihadists to concede territory. But the day when tens of thousands of Iraqis, including many Christian families, can return home remains a long way off. Those sheltering in churches, mosques, and schools have had to endure the soaring temperatures of the Iraqi summer, with scant supplies of water and other essentials. The challenge for aid workers will now be to provide more robust shelter before the onset of winter.

Christian Aid estimates that 200,000 people are living in "terrible conditions in refugee camps across northern Iraq. Most want nothing more than to return home, but are fearful of their future."

The head of Middle East region at Christian Aid, Janet Symes, said that the charity's partners were distrib-uting hygiene kits to families in Sulaymaniyah, and providing food and clothes for displaced families in Sinjar and Dohuk. But, she said, as the number of these families rose, "we urgently need funds to help keep people safe and healthy, especially as the harsh winter approaches."

As concern for the fate of Christians and other minorities in Iraq grows, there have been more calls for the UK Government to allow the entry of refugees. Last Saturday, 13 bishops signed a letter to The Times, backing a similar call made earlier by eight others, including Archbishop Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu.

The letter urged the Government to promote "a co-ordinated approach" towards the displaced Iraqi Christians. "Their fate is now in the hands of outsiders, after a forced exit from areas they have inhabited since New Testament times."

The Bishops said that, despite the best efforts of NGOs and Churches, plus substantial donations from the British public, "this level of aid cannot be sustained, and a longer-term solution is required." The letter said that Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, France, and other countries "have proved remarkably generous, but not, so far, the UK, despite its being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and a member of the UN Council of Human Rights."

In Australia, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has written to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, asking for the intake of refugees in Australia to be raised from 13,700 to 20,000. Dr Davies applauded the government for its decision to offer sanctuary to homeless Iraqis, but said that he had received "contact from many members of our churches who are very concerned at the plight of these people, and asylum-seekers generally.

"As a Christian leader, I appeal to you to show hospitality and generosity to those who have suffered more than we can imagine."

In Baghdad, and other areas of Iraq still under government control, people are waiting to see if the new cabinet can take steps to curb the increasing tension between Sunni and Shia communities (News, 12 September). Sectarian murders and kidnappings occur daily, but tend to be overshadowed by the IS crisis.

Amnesty International's senior crisis-response adviser in Iraq, Donatella Rovera, recently visited the town of Samarra, which is caught between IS forces to the north and army units and Shia militias to the south. She quoted an elderly resident of Samarra as saying: "We are cut off from everything; the only road open is south to Baghdad, but many of the checkpoints are controlled by Shia militias, who abduct Sunnis; so most people avoid getting on the road."

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