On 25th July 2017 the Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, received written answers to two questions of Government about protecting Christians in Iraq and Syria.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking in Iraq and Syria to discharge the responsibility set out by Mark Field MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 4 July (HC Deb Col. 21WH) for “protecting and upholding the rights of Christian communities across the globe.”
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: In Syria we are providing a range of support, including to the moderate opposition, to help save lives, bolster civil society, counter extremism, promote human rights and accountability, and lay the foundations for a more peaceful future. To date, this amounts to over £120 million, with a further £30 million to bolster regional stability.
In Iraq we are promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief for all religious communities. We urge the Government of Iraq at senior levels to uphold the rights of all minorities. In addition, we support projects on community dialogue with civil society and faith groups. For example, through the Foreign and Commonwealth 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.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by Mark Field MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 4 July (HC Deb. Cols 21–23WH) concerning the “special responsibility for protecting and upholding the rights of Christian communities across the globe” and the ring-fencing of humanitarian assisstance to help protect displaced minorities, whether they will institute a programme for the secure restoration of Christian communities and other minorities in Iraq.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Iraqi Christians have deep and ancient ties to the region. It is a tragedy that so many have been forced to flee their homes and been subjected to such appalling human rights abuses. We want to see Christians and other minorities continuing to live, worship and prosper in Iraq and across the Middle East.
To this end, we are providing £209.5 million in humanitarian aid to all those who have been affected by conflict in Iraq. The funding provides clean water, sanitation, essential medicines and other life-saving assistance. We are also providing over £15 million towards UN efforts to stabilise areas liberated from Daesh. In addition, through the UK’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund we are supporting community cohesion, encouraging reconciliation and promoting acceptance and tolerance between communities. We also continue to encourage political and religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly to condemn violence and we are working to build international consensus on upholding freedom of religion or belief.
UK funded aid is provided on the basis of need to ensure civilians are not discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, or ethnicity.
Ultimately, the best way of safeguarding Christian and other minority communities in Iraq is to establish lasting peace. That means defeating Daesh and helping the Government of Iraq to deliver political reform and reconciliation.
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