On the 20th February 2017, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to questions about the situation in Iraq.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what political and financial assistance they are providing to strengthen and develop the structures and mechanisms for interreligious dialogue and co-operation in Iraq.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The UK Government promotes interreligious dialogue and co-operation in Iraq and the right to freedom of religion or belief for all of Iraq’s religious communities. At the political level, we urge the Government of Iraq consistently at senior levels to uphold the rights of all minorities. We also work to build international consensus on upholding freedom of religion or belief. In addition, we support practical projects on community dialogue with civil society and faith groups. For example, through the Foreign Office’s Magna Carta Fund, we have contributed £163,000 to support a project across several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, to promote legal and social protection for freedom of religion or belief. This project aims to prevent intolerance and violence towards religious communities by inspiring leaders in Iraqi society to defend freedom of religion or belief.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the current humanitarian situation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the existing levels of international donor support.
Lord Bates: The Kurdistan region hosts over one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 230,000 Syrian refugees. A combination of the economic downturn in Iraq and IDP numbers has placed pressure on services in the region. The UN’s 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan was developed in coordination with both the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government and has received strong donor support. It has so far received 90% of the funds needed to provide life-saving assistance to 7.3 million vulnerable Iraqis, including those living in the Kurdistan region. The UN will launch a new Humanitarian Response Plan for 2017 later this month.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to enlist the help of churches, religious institutions and communities in the provision of aid and support to those individuals in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq who have fled their homes to escape Daesh.
Lord Bates: Faith-based organisations in Iraq are able to access UK funding through the UN-managed Iraq Humanitarian Pooled Fund, to which the UK is the largest donor. UK officials have met with faith-based organisations to discuss the humanitarian situation and to provide guidance on how to access the fund. UK Officials in the Kurdistan region are in regular contact with the Christian, Yezidi, and Muslim community leaders, and have participated in a Religious Dialogue Conference where all religions of the Kurdistan region were represented. All UK-funded humanitarian aid in the Kurdistan Region is distributed on the basis of need, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that humanitarian, stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in areas of Iraq liberated from Daesh include provision for psycho-social post-trauma counselling and rehabilitation for traumatised individuals and communities.
Lord Bates: In areas of Iraq recently liberated by Daesh the UK is supporting UNICEF to provide lifesaving response services for victims of gender based violence, and the International Organisation for Migration to deliver general clinical and trauma care, including mental health services. The UK is the largest contributor to the Iraq Humanitarian Pooled Fund, which responds to the most urgent needs of vulnerable Iraqis. This has included psychosocial support services for over 2,700 people, and referrals to specialist legal services for hundreds of survivors of torture and sexual violence.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Iraq to repeal legislation that forces children of parents who convert to Islam automatically to become Muslim.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We have concerns with Article 26 of the National Identity Card Law as it limits an individual’s freedom of religion. The President of Iraq objected to the clause and although the law was signed, the clause has been referred back to the Council of Representatives for reconsideration, but so far no action has been taken by the Council. We have made clear our concerns to the Government of Iraq. We are working alongside Non-Governmental Organisations, such as the Iraqi Council for Interfaith Dialogue, to continue to promote freedom of religion and belief in Iraq.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to rebuild inter-communal trust in areas liberated from Daesh in Iraq.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We are supporting the Iraqi Government’s efforts to rebuild public trust in the Iraqi State and to unite all of Iraq’s communities against extremism. We consistently urge the Government of Iraq to take concrete steps towards inclusive and representative local governance, capable of providing basic services and protection. The UK has pledged £9.25 million to the UN’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation, which is supporting the Iraqi Government to stabilise areas liberated from Daesh. This funding is re-establishing security and basic services, re-creating livelihoods and supporting grassroots reconciliation. Since June 2015, it has helped 862,000 people return to their homes across Iraq. The Secretary of State for International Development, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) also announced a further £40 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraq at the UN General Assembly on 21 September 2016, specifically to support the response to Mosul.