MPS PUT PRESSURE ON DAVID CAMERON TO RECOGNISE CHRISTIAN ‘GENOCIDE’ IN THE MIDDLE EAST
By Sean Smith
Senior British politicians have put pressure on David Cameron with a letter urging that the UK joins other nation states in recognising the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as “genocide”.
Last week the Lithuanian parliament become the first EU state to recognise legally that religious genocide is occurring across the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and northern Africa.
Now 66 UK MPs and members of the House of Lords have written to the UK prime minister urging that the British Government “use all the influence of Her Majesty’s Government at the United Nations to obtain an agreement that the word ‘genocide’ should be used” in relation to the atrocities being committed in Iraq and Syria.
They cite evidence of assassinations by Isis of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artefacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity.
Defining the atrocities as “genocide” would require the United Nations and the 127 signatory nations to act to implement the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide which defines genocide as a systematic killing or seriously harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. That group may be “national, ethnic, racial or religious” and the treaty identifies “acts committed with intent to destroy [that group] in whole or in part.”
Rob Flello MP (Labour, Stoke on Trent South), one of the lead signatories of the letter says: “Daesh [Isis] are an evil cult who have unleashed a tide of death on Christians and other minority religions in the areas where they have seized control. We must send a clear and unequivocal message to them that eventually they will be held to account by the international community for their atrocities. We hope the Prime Minister will now act swiftly to encourage the United Nations to describe these killings as the orchestrated genocide they are.”
Former Liberal Party and Liberal Democrat MP and Roman Catholic Lord Alton of Liverpool, said: “If beheadings, crucifixions, enslavement, rape, the seizure of homes and property, and mass graves, does not constitute genocide it is hard to imagine what does.
“The deliberate targeting of people because of their ethnicity or religion is precisely what constitutes genocide and that is precisely what has happened to Yazidis and Christians. Under international law, the failure of Governments and political leaders to name this as genocide is a serious dereliction of their duty.”
The 66 signatories are from all faiths and none are drawn from both Houses of Parliament, all political parties and include three Anglican Bishops, a former Director General of the Security Services Management Board [Lord Evans], a former Chief of the Defence Staff [Lord Guthrie], professors and senior lawyers.
The letter’s organiser, Chris Whitehouse, Secretary of the Catholic Legislators’ Network, added: “One word, genocide, is all it takes this Christmas to send a powerful message to evil-doers of ISIS that they will be caught, tried and punished. It would force the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention to act to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators of these evil acts”.
DAVID CAMERON URGED TO RECOGNISE ISIS SLAUGHTER OF CHRISTIANS AS GENOCIDE
Two Catholic politicians have written a letter signed by 60 colleagues calling on the prime minister to exert influence on the UN
The killing of Christians and other minority groups in the Middle East should be recognised as genocide, more than 60 parlimentarians have demanded in a letter to the Prime Minister.
The letter, written by Catholics Rob Flello MP and cross-bench peer Lord Alton, urges David Cameron to push for an an agreement with the UN that ISIS’s atrocities should be described as genocide.
According to the BBC, the letter said there is evidence that ISIS has murdered Church leaders, carried out torture and mass killings and is responsible for the “the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women”.
It added that the terrorists are carrying out “forcible conversions to Islam” and destroying churches, monasteries and Christian artefacts.
“This is not simply a matter of semantics,” the letter said.
“There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the UN that genocide is being perpetrated.
“First, it would send a very clear message to those organising and undertaking this slaughter that at some point in the future they will be held accountable by the international community for their actions; they will be caught, tried and punished.
“Second, it would encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention to face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators of these evil acts.”
ISIS has been been systematically slaughtering minorities including Iraqi and Syrian Christians and Yazidis, the letter added.
In October, the British government agreed to consider if the slaughter and expulsion of Christians from the Middle East by Islamist terrorists constitutes genocide, but said it was reluctant to use the term.
Speaking at the time, Lord Alton said that the killing of Christians in Syria was a “genocide that dares not speak its name”.
BRITISH GOVERNMENT ‘RELUNCTANT’ TO CALL PERSECUTION OF MIDDLE EAST FAITHFUL GENOCIDE
By Simon Caldwell
Lord Alton has said the killing of Christians in Syria is a ‘genocide that dares not speak its name’
The British government has agreed to consider if the slaughter and expulsion of Christians from the Middle East by Islamist terrorists constitutes genocide, but said it was reluctant to use the term.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, told the Lords that she would “reflect” on whether brutality inflicted on minorities by ISIS amounted to efforts to eradicate them completely.
She said the Government acknowledged that ISIS was “persecuting individuals and communities on the basis of their religion, belief or ethnicity, and its murderous campaign has resulted in the most appalling humanitarian crisis of our time”.
But she said the Government was reluctant to profess the view, held by Pope Francis, that the persecution was genocidal, but added: “I will certainly continue to reflect on that.”
Her comments were a response to Lord Alton of Liverpool, the Catholic crossbench peer, who had asked what steps the Government was taking to uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
Lord Alton told the Lords that the killing of Christians in Syria was a “genocide that dares not speak its name”.
In spite of the assurance from Baroness Anelay, the Foreign Office confirmed after the debate that the Government did not intend to use the term “genocide” to describe the persecution of minorities by ISIS.
A spokesman said the Government was unable to make “a full appraisal of the situation” because of difficulties on the ground and would be focusing instead on preventing further atrocities.
CHRISTIANITY IS UNDER THREAT OF EXTINCTION IN MIDDLE EAST, WARNS PRINCE CHARLES
By Catherine Pepinster
Prince of Wales highlights crisis at meeting with refugees at Archbishop’s House
The Prince of Wales warned today that the future of Christianity is in jeopardy in the Middle East.
Speaking to refugees from the region and to clerics from Middle Eastern churches, he warned: “There is a very real crisis that threatens the very existence of Christianity in its place of origin. This affects us all.
Christianity is not a foreign religion in the Middle East. It has been part of the Middle East for 2,000 years.”
The Prince was speaking at an Advent reception hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, at Archbishop’s House, for members of various Middle-Eastern Christian denominations and where he met refugees from Syria, Egypt, Iraq and other Middle East countries and heard of the persecution of Christians by Islamist fundamentalists.
The Prince warned that the Christian heritage of the region “is under threat as never before. The Churches are being targeted by fanatics. The impact that this violence has had on people is heartbreaking. This is a reminder of what people will sink to in the name of faith.”
And he urged in Advent that “we pause to think about that part of the world where the Word was made flesh.
The Prince, accompanied by Cardinal Nichols, spent an hour talking to people from the Middle East attending the reception and hearing their stories. Among them was Mark Mansor, from Iraq, who lost nine of his relatives, including his brother, when they tried to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece. He spoke to Prince Charles about his efforts to bring his late brother’s nine year old son, who survived the board journey and is now in Athens, to join him in London.
Iraqi engineering student Sarmad Ozan, 24, a member of the Syriac Orthodox Church, told Prince Charles of how he fled by from Mosul with his family after they were threatened by Islamic State.
Although he secured a scholarship to study in Britain, the Iraqi state will no longer fund him because he is a Christian, he told the prince, and is now appealing against the rejection of his asylum claim in Britain. He said that the prince told him “We are with you” when he explained his plight.
Visitors to the reception praised the Prince of Wales for his interest in the suffering of Middle East Christians. Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said that his interest has proved invaluable in raising the profile of Middle East Christians.
Among the problems that Christian refugees are facing and about which the Prince expressed concern was the extent to which they are not being admitted to Britain.
The UK takes refugees via the camps run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but many Christians avoid the camps because they fear they will be targeted by Muslims based in them, and so they rely instead on help from local churches and houses, and are not processed through the UN system.
“I told him that Christians need equal access to help,” said Bishop Angaelos.
Charities including Iraqi Christians in Need, Friends of the Holy Land, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aid to the Church in Need – which the Prince described as “a remarkable organisation” – also attended the event.
Earlier this year ACN took three Christians to meet Prince Charles in Scotland to describe their experience of persecution. Jesuit priest Fr Ziad Hilal from Syria, Victoria Yohanna, 15, from Nigeria, forced to witness violence by Boko Haram, and Fr Douglas Bazi, a former captive of Al Qaeda in Baghdad, talked to the prince for an hour and a half about what they had seen and suffered.
The Advent reception is one of several occasions in the past year when the Prince of Wales has spoken out about the situation facing Christians in parts of the Middle East. Today Cardinal Nichols praised him for his forthright support.
“At this time at Christmas there should be particular concern for those who suffer in the name of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Prayers were said at the service that concluded the meeting by Melkite, Maronite and Syriac Catholics.