THE House of Commons voted unanimously, on Wednesday of last week, to recognise the atrocities carried out in Syria and Iraq by Islamic State (IS) against Christians, Yazidis, and other minority ethnic and religious groups as genocide.
The motion also called on the Government to make an immediate referral to the UN Security Council to transfer jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This would allow the ICC to investigate and prosecute the terrorist group.
The Conservative MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce, who moved the motion, said that genocide was the most appropriate term to describe IS’s campaign of murder, rape, and destruction. “After the horrors of the Holocaust, the words ‘Never again’ resounded through civilisation. We must not let them resound again.”
MPs from across the House made speeches in support of the motion.
The Conservative MP for Eastbourne, Caroline Ansell, said that the group’s actions matched the definition of genocide in the UN’s statement of 1948: that it involves “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
She asked: “Have we seen evidence of such intent? Yes, indisputably, in the kidnapping of women and girls; in torture, rape, and sexual enslavement; in beheadings, crucifixions, and mass graves; in the assassination of church leaders, and the desecration and destruction of churches, cemeteries, and artefacts; and in the enforced conversions and the driving of people from their lands.”
The Labour MP for Ealing North, Stephen Pound, paid tribute to the bravery of IS’s victims. “Is it not extraordinary how many of them refuse to recant or recuse, and how many say: ‘This is our faith’? In some cases, they die for that faith. That is extraordinary, and testament to the courage that still exists.”
Referring to the flight of Syrian and Iraqi Christians from their homeland, and the destruction of monasteries and villages, the Conservative MP for South Ribble, Seema Kennedy, said that Christianity was “dying in its cradle”.
The motion was carried by 278 votes to 0.
Last month, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: “Our urgent prayer is for Christians, Yazidis, and a variety of other identifiable groups against which the hatred of Daesh [IS] is directed, and, supremely, for each individual — each of them precious to God.
“Therefore, can the category of ‘genocidal acts’ help to stop the killing, and help to bring the perpetrators sooner to account for their crimes? Yes, I believe it can.”
A legal organisation that campaigns for freedom of religion across the world, AFD International, has estimated that the number of Christians has fallen from two million to fewer than one million in Syria, and from 1.4 million to fewer than 260,000 in Iraq in the past few years.
Williams voices fears over Middle East THE former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has voiced fears that the Middle East could be dominated by an aggressive and immature form of Islam if its non-Muslim communities continue to be forced out by conflict and persecution.
Lord Williams warned: “A future for the Arab world that is exclusively and aggressively Muslim is a future that betrays not only the history of Arab civilisation, but the best and maturest insights of Islam itself.”
His remarks appear in a book, Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Modern Aramaic Press, 2016), which commemorates one of two Syrian archbishops abducted three years ago.
The Syrian Oriental Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Yohanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, the Most Revd Paul Yazigi, were captured as they drove towards the Turkish border to negotiate the release of two abducted priests in April 2013 (News, 26 April 2013). Their driver was murdered at the scene, and nothing has been heard of the two archbishops since, despite three years of investigations.
Dr Mikael Oez, of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, who co-edited the book, said last Friday that investigations into the archbishops’ disappearance had “faced a deafening wall of silence”. He spoke at a conference at SOAS marking their disappearance. Speakers included Lord Williams and Orthodox clergy and scholars.
Lord Williams blamed the chaos in Syria on “irresponsible intervention in the region, interference from other countries with agendas that have little to do with the well-being of the people of Syria as a whole, and confusion, ignorance, and division among the international community”.
He cautioned against “another round of ineffective and ill-conceived interventions by a couple of isolated Western states”, and called instead for “a really well co-ordinated approach, using the resources of both Eastern and Western Europe as well as regional actors”. He urged them to set aside their rivalries to secure lasting peace for all Syrians.
Syria has long been home to Sunnis, Shias, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Mandeans, and Yazidis. Christians — mostly Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholics, and Oriental Orthodox — made up about ten per cent of the country’s population before the start of the civil war.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, said earlier this year that half of the Christians in his city had already left