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01 September 2014

Christians stand in solidarity with Iraqis facing persecution

Christians stand in solidarity with Iraqis facing persecution

by Amaris Cole

Religious leaders will gather on Wednesday to stand in solidarity with Iraqis facing persecution. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will speak at the vigil outside Westminster Abbey, in unity with those suffering at the hands of extremists.

The United Nations announced today that reports from the country "reveal acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale". Minorities are now being targeted with brutality that may amount to "ethnic and religious cleansing". The faith leaders are uniting this week to send a strong message to extremists that the UK is standing in solidarity with those from all faiths who are under attack.

The Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) is attacking minority groups, with an estimated 100,000 Christians displaced after fleeing their homes. Alliance member Release International reports Christians are being given three options: to convert to Islam, pay a penalty tax called jizya, or be killed. The situation in Iraq has worsened in recent months as the allied Sunni fighters take control of large parts of northern and western Iraq. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is describing it as a "catastrophe for the people of Iraq and the region". If left unchecked, the Alliance member says it could also have "profound implications for freedom and democracy across the globe".

Uniting against these attempts to divide people of different religions, Imam Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner of the Movement for Reform Judaism and Ayatollah Dr Sayyid Fadhil H Al-Milani, along with the Archbishop, will attend the vigil. Representatives from Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and World Jewish Relief are also invited.

Katie Harrison of member organisation Tearfund has just returned from Iraq. She told the Alliance: "I met people in the Kurdish region of Iraq who lived in utter terror. ISIS rule by fear and those who refuse to convert are raped, executed or both - whether they're Yazidi, Christian or even a Muslim who doesn't share their interpretation of their religion.

"The horrors of persecution are unimaginable, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled the ISIS-held areas in fear for their lives. We must pray for them and do whatever we can to help them rebuild their lives."

The vigil will be held Wednesday, 3 September, 11.30am to 12:30pm outside Westminster Abbey on the grass by the Innocent Victims Memorial, 20 Deans Yard, London SW1P 3PA.