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18 November 2014

Prayer is first response to Iraq and Syria crisis, Synod told

Prayer is first response to Iraq and Syria crisis, Synod told

Prayer should be the foundation of response to the violence against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, the Church of England's General Synod has been told. 

During a panel discussion today, the co-director of Anglican Alliance, Rev Rachel Carnegie, said the facts on the ground were "simply devastating". 

More than 12.2 million people in Syria are in need of assistance, and 1.8 million in Iraq are displaced. Behind these statistics are "horrific tales", she said;trauma, displacement, rape and abductions are commonplace here. 

The head of the development, relief and advocacy group went on to say that parishes and communities here can act, first by praying for protection, provision and perseverance for those facing persecution. 

Christians in the UK can also engage with the situation by giving –either to churches in the affected areas that are providing relief for those suffering or through Christian aid agencies, such as Alliance member Tearfund

Despite the trauma, there is hope, Mrs Carnegie said. 

There are a coalition of churches supporting Christians and non-Christians in Kurdistan;churches in northern Iraq are providing aid to Christians and Yazidis and Christian mobile health clinics are also reaching out to Muslims and Yazidis across the region. 

"Poverty creates conditions where extremist ideologies take root and fester," she said, urging the government to take its trade policy very seriously. 

The "vast majority" of the Muslim community in this country are "paralysed" by what is going on," said Fuad Nahdi, a panel member and director of the Radical Middle Way, a Muslim group to promote understanding of moderate Islam to young people. 

"Most of them are looking to the third option: prayer. What is going on is incomprehensible." 

He said some, particularly young people, are looking for answers to this issue, to which there are no words. 

"This makes the weaker ones amongst them react in weaker ways: they are frustrated." 

We need to go back and realise that people have coexisted magnificently, he said. It's time to re-educate people. 

"Faith lies in prayer," Mr Nahdi said. 

So can there be a future for coexistence of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East? 

Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Orthodox Church in the UK, believes there can be. "The existence can still be a reality if the very silent majority act. What we have now is a very vocal minority, and they are the only ones making the noise."

The bishop said: "I want to draw attention to persecution, but also aware of victory in that persecution. 

"Christ grants grace sufficient and proportionate to obstacles we face. If we're fully dependent, he will grant grace and power." 

The Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) is a commission of the Evangelical Alliance that brings organisations working on behalf of persecuted Christians together to speak with one voice, including Release International, Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. 

You can find out more about the Commission here