The Bishop of Shrewsbury has encouraged the Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq at the hands of Daesh.
In an Easter morning homily preached in Shrewsbury Cathedral, Bishop Mark Davies echoed the opinion of Pope Francis, the United States and the European Parliament that the atrocities committed by Daesh constitute a campaign of genocide. “This Easter, we must ask our own Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the crime of genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other minorities in the very region where the Christian faith began,” he said.
He called on Catholics to ask the British Government to follow the examples of other major western powers and to acknowledge that the terrorists are intending “to destroy a people” by acts of extreme violence. This hate-filled violence is reflected in the “indiscriminate terror”, which has recently been seen in the cities of Brussels and Paris.
Standing in solidarity with Christian leaders of the Middle East, Bishop Davies also urged political leaders to seek to address the humanitarian crisis not only by assisting refugees but also by building peace in the war-torn countries from which they are fleeing.
Europe, the Bishop said, will find the strength and right direction to be a peace-maker and to resolve the refugee crisis if it is guided by the Christian vision at the heart of its foundation. “Christian leaders across the region remind us that in responding to the symptoms of this crisis, we must not turn our eyes from its cause. The danger of ‘compassion fatigue’ or despair at the chaos of a whole region demands we find renewed energy to work for peace,” he said.
he recalled the “lessons of peace” Europe had learnt in the last century, amid death and destruction and a vast refugee crisis. “In 1945 and again in 1989, Europe drew on its inheritance of Christian faith and values to re-build the peace of this continent and the life of its peoples shattered by war and genocide,” he said. “It is only in being true to this faith, which teaches us the value and dignity of every human being, that Europe will be able to rise to meet new challenges and be capable of building peace rather than contributing to further chaos and destruction. The world looks to us not for the politics of narrow self-interest; but for the hope that enduring peace can be built.”
John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, this month declared the actions of Daesh to be genocide. Earlier, the U.S. House of Representative had voted unanimously to recognise the crimes as genocide and the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have also reached the same conclusion.
If a resolution recognising the genocide was adopted by the United Nations, the countries that have signed the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide would have an obligation to bring the activities of Daesh to an end, to prioritise the protection of the victims, and to pursue and prosecute perpetrators once the hostilities were over.
In seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate, Daesh has since 2014 persecuted anyone who does not share its ideology. Terrorists have assassinated Church leaders and have driven millions of Christians and Yazidis from their homes in a campaign which has included mass murders, crucifixions, beheadings, torture, kidnapping, sexual enslavement, systematic rape and forced conversions. Many Christian churches, monasteries, shrines and cemeteries have been destroyed.
Pope Francis, during a trip to Bolivia in July, used the word “genocide” to describe the plight of the persecuted Christians.
In Britain, the Government has resisted calls to recognise genocide in spite of receiving a letter from 75 politicians asking it to do so. Among those who signed was Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the former head of the British armed forces, and Lord Evans of Weardale, the former head of MI5.
On Monday an amendment to the Immigration Bill was rejected by 148 votes to 111 after the Government imposed a whip on Conservative peers to ensure that it would fail. The measure, tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, had proposed that the High Court should decide if the atrocities committed against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constituted genocide.