THE Archbishop of Canterbury was among church leaders and
politicians who denounced the murder of another foreigner by the
Islamic State (IS) group in Syria last week. Archbishop Welby
tweeted the following message: "Utter injustice seen in reported
terrible murder of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, our prayer, love, sympathy
for his family & friends in Indiana."
David Cameron said that he had been "horrified by the
cold-blooded murder" of Mr Kassig. President Obama labelled the
killing "pure evil", and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry,
said that IS leaders "assume that the world will be too intimidated
to oppose them. But let us be clear: We are not intimidated."
A group of 127 Islamic theologians and other Muslims from around
the world have written an open letter to the IS leader, Abu Bakr
Al-Baghdadi, condemning, among other things, the killing of
foreigners. The letter was presented to the diocesan synod in
Oxford last weekend by one of the signatories, Monawar Hussain, who
is an imam and the founder of the Oxford Foundation. The 23-page
letter consists of a detailed critique of IS ideology and
One section deals with the "killing of emissaries". It says that
journalists who are honest "are emissaries of truth, because their
job is to expose the truth to people in general. You have
mercilessly killed the journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
. . Aid workers are also emissaries of mercy and kindness, yet you
killed the aid worker David Haines. What you have done is
unquestionably forbidden (haraam)."
The letter reminds the IS leader how his followers had given
Arab Christians in Syria and Iraq three choices: to pay a poll tax,
convert to Islam, or be killed. The letter says: "You destroyed
their churches, and, in some cases, looted their homes and
property. You killed some of them, and caused many others to flee
their homes with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their
backs. These Christians are not combatants against Islam or
transgressors against it; indeed, they are friends, neighbours, and
The letter emphasises that Arab Christians "are not strangers to
these lands, but, rather, of the native peoples of these lands,
from pre-Islamic times. For the past 1400 years they have defended
their countries against the Crusaders, colonialists, Israel, and
other wars; how, then, can you treat them as enemies?"
The plight of Syrian and Iraqi Christians is being taken up by a
cross-party group of MPs who are seeking urgent meetings with the
Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, and the Home Secretary, Theresa
May. The MPs want to discuss what more might be done to help. The
initiative follows a meeting earlier this month at the House of
Commons, which was addressed by the head of the Syriac Orthodox
Church in the UK, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod.
Archbishop Athanasius told MPs and others present that
Christians in Syria and Iraq were facing genocide and ethnic
cleansing, while many of those who had fled were enduring
conditions of appalling hardship.
One of the MPs, Robert Flello, said that the Archbishop had
delivered "a stark message that things are getting far more
desperate than ever" for those inside their home countries, and
those who were camped in neighbouring states. Archbishop Athanasius
had also made it clear that "Western governments had not stepped up
to the plate quick enough to protect Christians."
To try to rectify this, Mr Flello and about half a dozen other
MPs from across the political spectrum are seeking meetings at the
Foreign Office and Home Office as soon as possible. "We want to
impress on the Foreign Secretary the seriousness of the situation
for Syrian and Iraqi Christians," Mr Flello said. Similarly with
the Home Office, the MPs want to see what more can be done under
existing laws and regulations to help Christians.
Archbishop Athanasius said that he was not in favour of foreign
troops being deployed in either Syria or Iraq. Instead, he wanted
Western governments to take diplomatic action to make sure that
neighbouring countries were doing all they could, not just to
provide shelter to Christian refugees, but also to allow them to
pray and conduct their traditional rituals in exile.
In the House of Lords this week, a Foreign Office Minister,
Baroness Anelay of St John's, said that the Government had
committed £23 million of humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and a
total of £700 million to Syria. Lady Anelay said that the
Government believed the only way to secure the position of minority
communities in Syria was through establishing an inclusive
political solution to the crisis. The UK remained determined to
support the moderate opposition.
Asked about the fate of Yazidis in Iraq, Lady Anelay said that
the impact on the Yazidi community and others was
"UN estimates show 1.9 million people in Iraq have been
displaced by violence. All UK-funded aid is distributed on the
basis of the need to ensure civilians are not discriminated against
on the grounds of race, religion, or ethnicity.
"The Government has therefore not carried out an assessment of
the total number of Yazidis, but would continue to work with the UN
and the international community to ensure basic needs are met."