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Archbishop of York calls on Government to show leadership over Iraq

Tuesday 26th August 2014

The Archbishop of York has issued the following statement today following United Nations reports that 670 people were executed by ISIL in the city of Mosul, the worst recorded massacre committed by the Salafi-Jihadist group.

“It is essential that Her Majesty’s Government now take a lead both internationally and domestically to respond to the daily unfolding horrors in Iraq.

“Internationally the Government must take a lead in its role on the UN Security Council to support calls from the United Nation’s own committees for the creation of a “safe zone” in Iraq, enforced by UN peacekeepers, to protect the country’s minorities. As a member of the Security Council the Government has voice and a chance to act. It is essential that they not only take the opportunity to do so but show leadership by encouraging others nation states to do the same.

“They should follow the example of Sir John Major who created Safe havens for the Marsh Arabs when Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons against the Kurds.  

“Domestically the time has come for the Government to show leadership in offering asylum to those at risk of persecution. Other countries have acted already. France, Germany and Australia have already acted. The Government must show that it has the courage to offer sanctuary to the suffering and to demonstrate that right policies triumph over political calculations.

“Three weeks ago, on August 6th, I wrote privately to the Prime Minister thanking him for the commitment of humanitarian aid committed by the Government to the situation in Iraq. In that letter I also raised the issue of asylum recognising that the granting of asylum will not bring an end to the crisis but is a humanitarian act aimed at relieving suffering. I await a substantive reply. I raise this not to embarrass the Prime Minister, for whom I pray, but to urge him and his colleagues to act justly and swiftly in the face of suffering. He has already spearheaded the response to those suffering on Mount Sinjar and approved fighters to accompany aid drops. But more still needs to be done.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that ISIL are “systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.” For me this is not ethnic cleansing but human slaughter.

“Holy Writ urges us to overcome evil with good and in circumstances such as those we are witnessing in Iraq, this means actively resisting evil both in terms of protecting the innocent and putting an end to the brutality of the perpetrators.

It has been reported that ISIL are receiving funding and backing from certain nation states. The UK Government must be resolute in naming such backers and publishing whatever intelligence it can to support those claims. Those who fund slaughter are as responsible for the killing as who brandish the sword. 

The events in Iraq demonstrate a fundamental truth about humanity and its unbridled capacity for brutality. I have witnessed first-hand the horrors of brutality and its dehumanising impact upon perpetrators in addition to the untold suffering of victims. Unbridled violence brings untold suffering to victims but also dehumanises perpetrators to such an extent that murder becomes an act of the ordinary instead of a sin against the sanctity of human life. To adapt the words of King Lear: as flies are to wanton boys, so are the innocent to the dehumanised soul; killing them for their sport.

The time for hard hitting speeches and condemnation has passed. What is required now is action to protect those at risk from slaughter.

I will continue my vigil for peace at York Minster throughout the week. I invite all people to continue to pray for peace and our world leaders to become instruments of peace.”

 

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