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Turning a blind eye

May 2016

The UK government has refused to acknowledge genocide is being committed against Christians by Islamic extremists.

In March, the House of Lords refused, by 148 to 111 votes, an amendment to the proposed Immigration Bill that would recognise genocide is being committed by Isis (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria. The amendment could have resulted in asylum for people from genocide areas.

In February, the European Parliament recognised the killing of minorities in the region as genocide. US Secretary of State John Kerry also declared that Isis is ‘genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, in what believes and in what it does.

In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims’.

Baroness (Helena) Kennedy of the Shaws, one of those backing the amendment, said the UK government’s refusal to make such a declaration was ‘morally indefensible’.

Lord Alton of Liverpool cited the US House of Representative’s 393 to 0 vote to affirm Isis commits ‘grotesque and targeted beheadings, enslavement, mass rape, and other atrocities against Christians and other minorities’.

He said, ‘I will not read the entire resolution of the House of Representatives, but the last phrase says, “The atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are, and are hereby declared to be, crimes against humanity and genocide”.’

Amendment sabotaged

According to The Tablet, Catholic Labour MP Rob Flello called on Baroness (Elizabeth) Berridge to resign as Chairwoman of the All-Party Group on religious freedom, claiming she had sabotaged the amendment.

In her speech Conservative peer Baroness Berridge had said she could not support the amendment, because the legal process in recognising a genocide can take too long and would not help the most vulnerable, and because the amendment was restricted to terrorist activity in Iraq and Syria.

The debate came after revelations that Pakistani church leaders had warned international and local agencies beforehand that Christians would be at increased risk of attacks over Easter. Easter’s bomb blast in a park in Lahore was aimed at Christians, and killed 75 and injured 340 Christians and Muslims, many of them children.          

Bishop Irfan Jamil, of the Church of Pakistan, told Barnabas Fund: ‘It is most sad. One of the women in our congregation was in church in the morning. In the afternoon I visited her in the intensive care unit of the hospital. It hurts you. Easter is supposed to be a day of joy, of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. And then you hear this’.

Following the attack, the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) — made up of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors and Release International — called on the British government to act immediately to enshrine freedom of religion or belief in all UK foreign policy.

RLC spokesman Dr David Landrum said, ‘At a time when so many parts of the world are experiencing oppression by those who wish to deny or destroy religious freedom, our hope is Britain can strengthen its record of promoting human rights by placing freedom of religion or belief at the heart of foreign policy’.

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