Saturday, 9 August 2014

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury on Iraq

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this Statement from Archbishop Justin on Iraq yesterday (Friday).

“The horrific events in Iraq rightly call our attention and sorrow yet again. Christians and other religious minorities are being killed and face terrible suffering.

“What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.

“The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.

“With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith. Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time.”

Press reports include:

Edward Malnick The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury urges Britain to open doors to persecuted Iraqi Christians

Sam Jones and Owen Bowcott The Guardian Isis persecution of Iraqi Christians has become genocide, says religious leaders

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 11:08am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

This is a timely call by the archbishop, though it could have come earlier.

It is worth noting the special relationship between the Church of England and the Assyrians. Archbishop Benson established a mission to the Assyrian Christians (1881/1885), which was maintained by his successors - special mention should be made of the heads of the mission, Oswald Parry (1868-1936; later bishop of Guiana) and, above all, of Canon W. A. Wigram (1872-1953).

It was Wigram who was much the most effective advocate of the Assyrians, notably in his books 'An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church, 100-640 AD' (1910), 'The Cradle of Mankind' (1914), 'Our Smallest Ally: A Brief Account of the Assyrian Nation in the Great War' (1920), and 'The Assyrians and their Neighbours' (1929).

Wigram felt very forcefully that Britain had let down the Assyrian community very badly after the termination of the mandate over Mesopotamia in 1932, after which the Assyrians suffered a severe persecution (they had been prominent in the civil and military administration of the mandate - viz. the Assyrian Levies). The passion with which he pleaded for the Assyrian cause, even before the League of Nations (1938) lost him the confidence of Cosmo Gordon Lang who, by degrees, disassociated Lambeth from the mission - the final separation occurring in 1939.

So it is heartening that Justin Welby has now taken up the cause.

Posted by: J Drever on Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 12:54pm BST

If the murder of Nigerian Christians is due to same sex marriage in the UK what offences are the Yazidi Kurds guilty of. I am sorry, this is not meant to be flippant, but the ABCs stupid cause and effect remark the other month really undermines his handwringing now.

I wish I could believe that anything any Christian in the west says is going to have some effect. Unfortunately the west has squandered any moral authority it ever had in this area and the murders will go on until either the blood lust of this perverted political and religious sect is satisfied or there is some effective action by neighbouring states to bring it to an end. And there is no sign of that either.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 3:47pm BST

It is perhaps inevitable that a Christian church will be interested in persecuted Chrstians,
but the ISIS radicals are also persecuting 10,000 members of a northern Iraqi tribe who believe in Manichaeism, an ancient religion, older than Christianity. Those people were told to either convert, pay a heavy tax, or leave. They fled into the mountains with essentially the clothes on their back.
They are also our brothers and sisters. At a minimum they need food and water. They, too, may also want to resettle.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 6:52pm BST

Fr. Giles Fraser continues to challenge us. Does our Christian solidary extend only to members of our own religious family. Or should it be extended to all those in need of our hospitality and generosity. I think we all know the answer to that, but the U.K. Government is being challenged to open its borders to accommodate the most needy of help at this time.

This, of course, is not just a problem for British people. It is a problem for ALL Christians around the world. Hospitality is one of the fundamental ways of showing solidarity with others in need. How are we all going to measure up?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 10 August 2014 at 12:34pm BST

Whilst I'm very pleased to hear of the Archbishop of Canterbury's (long overdue) concern, a word of caution is needed both for him and the Bishop of Manchester.

A well-intentioned opening of the U.K. to refugees from Iraq and the Middle East isn't actually what the leaders of the Oriental Orthodox Churches are calling for. They do not wish to see the ancient homelands of the Faith lands losing Christians by emigration to Western countries and thereby leaving either a persecuted rump or no Christian presence at all. Rather they are calling for support both practical, political and in some cases militarily in order to stabilise the situation and allow Christians to live their lives peaceful in their own countries where they have been for millennia. The very recent meeting in Beirut between Anglican representatives and leaders of the ancient Churches attests directly to this.

So C of E bishops please be careful what you say and how you say it. The law of unintended consequences often applies as it did with a vengeance in 2003 with the Iraq invasion, which many think was a major cause of where we are today.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Sunday, 10 August 2014 at 2:02pm BST

I don't like to say it but it seems nobody cares judging by the response to previous articles of 3rd August: Clergy discrimination re same sex marriage 53 comments; Bishops call for Iraqi Christian asylum only 6, and the last comment was mine. So we know which is more important. In years to come you can remember -1966 when we won the World Cup, 2012 when we had the London olympics and 2014 when Christianity was eradicated in Iraq.

Posted by: Henry Dee on Sunday, 10 August 2014 at 3:39pm BST

How about doing something rather than commenting, Henry Dee? Our parish shares its church building with the local Syrian Orthodox Christians every other week, and the Coptic community as well. We do things together. For Harvest we have a huge bread bake and sale, the proceeds of which will go to the relief of Chaldean and Assyrian Christians. Numbers of comments are no indication whatsoever of the importance of a topic, only of its non contentious character.

I'm gay as well, and I'd love other Christians to do something about "clergy discrimination" when it comes to marriage rather than simply comment.

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Sunday, 10 August 2014 at 5:22pm BST

By the way, people, your parishes can give through Christian Aid towards aid in Iraq. They in turn help through their ACT alliance sister agencies: the International Orthodox Christian Charities and Assyrian Aid, I believe.

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Sunday, 10 August 2014 at 5:24pm BST

"So we know which is more important." Well no, we know which is more controversial. It's hard to get up to 50+ comments if, as I suspect, no one is forthcoming to defend genocide. (Of course, I wish the same were true of marriage).

Posted by: Geoff on Monday, 11 August 2014 at 1:22am BST

You are quite right Lorenzo something more than commenting needs to be done. My previous request for people to sign the e petition was a waste of time - it now stands at 319. Having listened to the mid day news today about the genocide by ISIS in Iraq of all the faiths, and our MP's won't reconvene parliament makes you want to weep. We need to press our MP's to forgo their holidays and for the UK to follow the yanks and take direct action, and help the Kurds who are the only viable force protecting those minorities.

Posted by: Henry Dee on Monday, 11 August 2014 at 1:17pm BST

Meanwhile, many of the "liberal" comments in the U.S. are focused on how the U.S. shouldn't be/get involved again because this is our fault for getting involved in the past so we should just stand back and let the people survive or die on their own this time. Kyrie eleison.

Posted by: Chris H on Monday, 11 August 2014 at 8:47pm BST

It's also worth mentioning that A J MacLean Bishop of Moray and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church was head of the Assyrian Mission from 1886 until 1891, so there is a historic Scottish Anglican connection as well.

Posted by: frdougal on Monday, 11 August 2014 at 9:01pm BST

"So we know which is more important."
Er, no. We know where it makes sense to lobby and where it doesn't.
If I want the CoE policy on same sex marriage to change I engage with people within the CoE.

If I want to do something positive for Christians in Iraq I don't need to express my feelings on Thinking Anglicans. There are more effective channels for that.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 11 August 2014 at 11:41pm BST

"many of the "liberal" comments in the U.S [:] we should just stand back and let the people survive or die on their own this time"

Citation, please.

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 2:36am BST

Re Chris H., "Meanwhile, many of the 'liberal' comments in the U.S. are focused on how the U.S. shouldn't be/get involved again ... so we should just stand back and let the people survive or die on their own this time."

I hear what you are saying, but its more expansive than liberal regret and isolationism, prevalent as both are. The situation in Iraq is a function of the Bush and Blair intervention. The bombing of Libya by NATO countries and the invasion of Afghanistan in which western countries triggered factional violence, and my country of Canada was in both of the latter, have similarities in terms of cause and effect. It is crucial that we are confronted with the horrific outcomes of our interventions. The lop sided cheer leading by my Conservative Canadian government, with its black hat v. white hat foreign policy, if you can call it a policy, tells me we've learned nothing from this. Our PM was in opposition when Iraq was invaded, but his views were clear, and had he been in government we likely would have been in Iraq.

Having said that, not everyone is a liberal who believes cutting our losses is the moral thing to do here.Having created such tragic messes we ought to be be prepared to take in refugees in a substantial way, and not just Christians. In addition, I think a good moral case can be made for what America is doing at the moment,pressing for a more representative Iraqi government, plus using airstrikes and supplying arms to the Kurdish army. Just because one was opposed to these invasions in the first place, does not make one a pacifist or isolationist willing to let innocent people die for our foreign policy blunders. Lord have mercy on us all.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 3:34am BST

"Something must be done" is very easy to say - and it's certainly a sentiment I share - but Christians must think very carefully about what kind of action it is that we are calling for. This is not simply a matter of whether or not Christians should ever countenance using violent means to achieve peaceful ends, but also of being conscious that the people who will be making the military and political decisions about what is done in Iraq are not informed primarily by Christian principles. If the church gives its spiritual imprimatur to military action now, we cannot withdraw it at a later stage when the captains and the kings start doing things we abhor.

Many Christians ask "should we just allow people to be massacred?" There seems to be a deontological assumption at work that we have a duty to step in and stop murderous acts committed by others. I wonder rather if the question should not be whether we have a duty to intervene but rather whether we have any moral right to do so. I don't have any answer to that question, but it does seem to me that Christians need to think very hard about the motives that lead us into conflict. Are we doing what we are commanded to do, or are we merely doing what we want to do?

I don't know where this leaves us in relation to the people suffering on a mountain in northern Iraq, and it's tempting to say that the urgency of this situation makes theological nit-picking redundant. Why squabble about moral scruples when people are dying? (People who think we are too cautious on other controversial subjects make similar arguments). But when people say "something must be done!" my first response is increasingly to say "why not pray?" To be sure, that's certainly not the sort of thing to be said in public if you want to be taken seriously. But I'm reminded of Rowan Williams' recent piece about prayer from The Christian Century, where Rowan argues (via Origen) that “you and your prayer are part of God’s overall purpose for the situation in which he is going to work." If this is true - and if we believe that God has His purposes for the people of Northern Iraq - then whatever else we do we should surely be praying like crazy.

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 7:28am BST

Why should it be an either/or situation, rjb? Pray and bomb the hell out of those who would gleefully massacre innocents. It meets every criterion of just war (not that I believe that there is such a thing)

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 10:10am BST

"There seems to be a deontological assumption at work that we have a duty to step in and stop murderous acts committed by others. I wonder rather if the question should not be whether we have a duty to intervene but rather whether we have any moral right to do so."

Damn straight we do, rjb. If it's immoral to protect others, morality has no meaning.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 9:35pm BST

"Damn straight we do, rjb. If it's immoral to protect others, morality has no meaning."

And, of course, we in the U. S. will get to hear how we are carrying our imperialist vision out on a poor, unsuspecting world - largely from people like Chris H., I suspect.

Concern trolling is the new black.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 6:28am BST

Lorenzo, if there's no such thing as just war, then should we? Seems contradictory.

Mark, you misunderstand. I was disagreeing with the those bastions of "liberal" think in the US, NPR, HuffPost, and MSN where many comments are of the "Bush started this and we need to just stay out of it" variety. Hence the kyrie. Many of the bloggers on Episcopal Café,Preludium etc. also have long histories of being against US involvement and as was mentioned above cannot now turn around and say the US should get involved after being against our involvement for so long, not without hypocrisy. I'm rather surprised you're for us getting involved. I apologize for misunderstanding you.

Personally, I've written my representatives asking for aid and intervention and commented on a previous post here on other charities I investigated to support since until this week TEC and Episcopal Relief really haven't said anything about helping Iraq. Whether being a conservative on this liberal website is "trolling" is up to Simon and others to decide.

Posted by: Chris H on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 4:11pm BST

Personally I regard the Iraq War of ten years ago as US and British imperialism: the chaos going on at present is part of the great legacy of George Bush and Tony Blair.

There is little doubt in my mind that 'The Project for the New American Century' and the mindset of Bush and Rumsfeld etc could be fairly described as an "imperialist vision".

Those military interventions (aka invasions) subverted international trust, and undoubtedly makes intervention now more complex and more difficult to 'sell' to moderates in the Middle East, and further afield.

Not helped by our nations' support for the very bloody and brutal dictatorship in Egypt.

Beyond that, the historic interferences of both nations in other countries' affairs. Ever heard of Vietnam? Or Nicaragua?

The trouble with wanting to take the moral high ground in 'just interventions' is that our interventions have not always been just at all.

There is huge suspicion (and degrees of contempt) in the Muslim world towards Britain and the US.

This is because of the militaristic inclinations of successive governments, which result in loss of life (including our own servicemen and women) and also in social upheaval... into which, as we can see in Iraq today, all kinds of groups can move, to fill the vacuum.

"The Iraq War was a well-planned victory of democracy over dictatorship. Mission accomplished." Discuss.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 6:01pm BST

Re Chris H at 4:11 pm, " Many of the bloggers on Episcopal Café,Preludium etc. also have long histories of being against US involvement and as was mentioned above cannot now turn around and say the US should get involved after being against our involvement for so long, not without hypocrisy."

I'm trying to unpack this statement, but not without difficulty. ( I'm coming to the conclusion that debating complex and/or controversial issues in any online format likely does nothing to advance public discourse).

I'm one of those who expressed my opposition to the wars in the Gulf,Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya online. For one thing, I'm unconvinced that large scale invasions and occupations in this day and age are morally or strategically defensible. Nor do I believe that these types of interventions have been only about, or even primarily about, trying to defeat a terrorist enemy in the field.

However, I've never believed that military action against terrorists is unjustified. I am not now nor have I ever been a pacifist. There are times when military force is the lesser of two evils. The questions are about size, scale, extent, effectiveness, probability of success and so on. However, when one has intervened and altered another's context radically, and for the foreseeable future, in a way that puts large numbers of people at risk, then a moral case case can be made for taking action. The poles of colonialism/imperialism are invasion occupation on one end, and arbitrary withdrawal despite circumstances on the other. Instance, interpreters who worked for Canadian forces in Afghanistan, would not the just thing be to give them refugee status in Canada?

There is nothing hypocritical about expecting people to meet their residual responsibilities even if one was not in favor of the intervention that consequently created said responsibilities.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 1:20am BST

I marched against the Iraq War, Susannah, but this isn't the Iraq War; it's threatening to become another Assyrian/Armenian Genocide. Refusing to protect the innocent by force would be equivalent to the U.N. ordering its soldiers to stand aside in Rwanda, 1994.

If deadly force is ever justified (and I believe it is), it's justified here. Using airstrikes against ISIS meets all the criteria of a just war: proportionate force used in a just cause, with a reasonable likelihood of success.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 7:50am BST

Yes Chris, it's called the lesser evil option, but I don't like to pretend that war is just, it remains evil, though it must be waged to protect countless innocents. If sinning in this case, as Augustine put it, pecca fortiter, and make sure it was not in vain; that your evil adversary is not able to rise again. I'm quite aware of the traditional liberal objections to this moral stance, but the cries and charges of consequentialism, utilitarianism, cultural relativism and what have you just sound like so many failures to act, bigger sins.

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 8:14am BST

I'm not saying that intervention isn't justified to help and protect the weak and defenceless.

My point was that we need to acknowledge our nations' own history of imperialism, and how our own actions have subverted whole societies and caused grievous loss and damage, including societal damage.

I was also trying to express how reasonable I think it is that many Muslims are deeply distrustful of our nations' motives and principles.

Basically, the US and UK caused the power vacuum, the societal unravelling, and the conditions for the mayhem that now exists. There were other factors, but fundamentally - ignoring the will of the international community - we made matters worse.

Therefore, for us to pose as moral agencies for good is a bit of a big call. We can still try to help, on sheer humanitarian grounds, but we do not hold the moral high ground.

We have caused a lot of suffering ourselves, and exacerbated deep and difficult situations through a combination of arrogance and subsequent hubris.

In the end, the rescue of defenceless people is a standalone justified action (would I stand aside if my family was attacked by an intruder?) but what I'm saying is that there are terrible contexts, a track record of devastated lives resulting from UK/US actions.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 9:36pm BST

We all need to face the fact that the U.S. is the only truly democratic country that can afford to exercise power to aid those less fortunate. We all need to give Americans a break when we criticize their willingness to help the defeat of terrorism.
Theirs is the one modern power founded on the basics of Christianity - even if sometimes v. basic.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 16 August 2014 at 3:33am BST
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