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08 August 2014

Press release

Statement on the plight of Christians and other minorities in Iraq

Statement on the plight of Christians and other minorities in Iraq

Map showing areas of IS control in Iraq (Open Doors UK and Ireland, 7 Aug 2014)

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION statement:

Christians are suffering and dying in Iraq. The terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) is killing them, displacing them and seizing their properties. Now Iraq's ancient Yazidi community is experiencing similar abuses.

This is a catastrophe for the people of Iraq and the region and if left unchecked it could also have profound implications for freedom and democracy across the globe. Religious freedom is a fundamental right that has been described as a 'litmus test' for the depth of democracy. That's why attacks on this right cannot be ignored.

We believe that if Western governments allow groups like IS to persecute populations with impunity, it will set a dangerous precedent in global affairs. The situation in Iraq is particularly important because Western governments were complicit in creating the vacuum into which the terrorists have now stepped. It is unacceptable for Western governments that embarked on the process of bringing freedom and human rights to Iraq to continue neglecting this situation. It is vital that all of Iraq's religious and ethnic minorities are guaranteed a future in their country.

The UN Secretary General and Security Council have urged international assistance for the Iraqi government and people. Therefore, we call upon our own government to provide practical assistance for those displaced by the current violence who wish to remain in their country. We also echo the call of the Church of England for Iraqi Christian refugees and those from other minority communities who wish to escape persecution to be granted asylum in the United Kingdom in accordance with the international refugee convention.

Events in Iraq form part of a broader pattern of increasing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. In many countries, including Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Mali, CAR, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Somalia and Afghanistan, well-armed Islamist extremists are not only persecuting Christians severely, but are also violating the rights of all who do not share their restrictive dogma. The international community must unite and take action to stem the seemingly inexorable advance of violent insurgencies that use religion to justify their severe violations of fundamental freedoms and their wanton disregard for human dignity. Western governments have a responsibility to play a leading role in this action. And taking a stand on Iraq needs to be the starting point.

Media Enquiries

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Kiri Kankhwende
Press officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide 
Tel: +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663
Email: kiri@csw.org.uk

Notes to Editors

The Religious Liberty Commission
The Religious Liberty Commission (RLC), formed in 2012, exists to bring organisations working on behalf of persecuted Christians together to speak with one voice. RLC members are: Release International, Open Doors (UK and Ireland), Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the Evangelical Alliance (UK)Each member organisation has its own distinctive mandate but we all feel the issue of Christian persecution is so important that we want to speak together regularly to raise awareness of key developments globally, in a significant and collaborative way.

The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org