Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, the Revd David Grosch-Miller, offers the following statement of solidarity as the crisis continues to unfold in Syria and communities in northern Iraq continue to face unrelenting persecution for their religious beliefs:
“As we witness hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and members of other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities being forced from their homes, displaced, persecuted and murdered in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, we call for prayer and acts of solidarity.
“The atrocities committed by the so-called “Islamic State” militants have led to the massacre of thousands of men, women and children belonging to religious minority groups. The violence has displaced approximately 1.2million people in Iraq alone including followers of Islam. The thousands of Yazidis who were trapped on Mount Sinjar with no access to food or water, have now escaped into northern Iraq – searching for refuge anywhere possible. Yazidi villages in Iraq are reportedly being taken over by Islamic State militants who are rounding up and executing the men and taking the women to undisclosed locations. Thousands of Christians in the region are now in exile, as communities flee for their lives to take refuge in Kurdish cities.
“The World Council of Churches has reported that ancient Christian churches in the regions have been desecrated and destroyed by IS militants, and the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, has stated that important manuscripts have been burnt and ruined. Both have called for urgent and immediate action to be taken to protect the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have been displaced and are in fear of their lives – in critical need of water, food and shelter.
“We call upon people of all faiths to pray for the people of Syria and Iraq, those who have been denied of their basic dignity and human rights, as they continue to witness the massacre of their communities, the murdering of loved ones and the destruction of their places of worship. Let us allpray to the God of life, peace and justice for those who have had the fullness of life denied to them, for those in all parts of the world who continue to suffer and be persecuted for their beliefs.
“We call on the international community to witness the horrors that are unfolding and recognise that we should strive to protect our sisters and brothers who are oppressed and to help bring an end to the human rights violations in Iraq and the surrounding regions. We challenge our own government not only to provide short term humanitarian aid but to work for a lasting peace with justice for all minorities. As people of faith we acknowledge that acts of solidarity may be offered through prayer, supporting aid efforts, and drawing the world’s attention to the plight of those around the world who are persecuted for their religious beliefs.”