'They would not convert and it cost them their life'. Family of eight Iraqi Christians shot in the face

Published 05 August 2014  |  
File

Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, who has witnessed extreme sufferings of Christians being killed and persecuted in recent weeks, has accused the British Government of doing nothing to help fleeing Christians. Bishops and other church leaders have added their voices his concerns.

Catholic bishops in Engand and Wales have called on Christians to join with people across Iraq "in praying for an end to the violent persecution that threatens to extinguish the ancient Iraqi Christian community."

Church leaders in Iraq have selected Sunday, August 9 for the Day of Prayer.

Bishop of Clifton Declan Lang, who heads international affairs for the Catholic bishops, said: "Events in Iraq over the past few weeks have been disastrous. Christians have been systematically driven out of Mosul.

"A community of 60,000 before 2003 has dwindled over the years and is now down to almost nothing. For the first time in 1,600 years, no Masses are being celebrated in Mosul. Many Christians have fled to the surrounding Nineveh Plains and into Kurdistan as militants from the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIS), threaten those who do not subscribe to their fundamentalist ideology.

"We are witnessing today an act of religious and ethnic cleansing toward Christians as well as many other communities such as Sufis, Shabaks, Mandaeans, Yazidis, Turkmen, let alone Shi'is and Sunnis, as extremists drive people out of the lands that have been their home for thousands of years; some churches have been converted into mosques, ancient monasteries lie abandoned and the homes of Christians have been daubed with signs that would mark them out as a target for the extremists."

Canon White, vicar of St George's Baghdad, posted on his Facebook page: "You know I love to show photos but the photo I was sent today was the most awful I have ever seen. A family of eight all shot through the face laying in a pool of blood with their Bible open on the couch. They would not convert it cost them their life. I thought of asking if anybody wanted to see the picture but it is just too awful to show to anybody. This is Iraq today."

He criticised the British government for not doing enough to help Christians fleeing Mosul. Speaking at the Chiswick Christian Centre he said: "Where is the biggest number of Iraqi Christians? Not here. Chicago, then Detroit, then Sweden, then Australia and Canada. This country will not allow any Iraqi Christians in. None. Any Iraqi Christians who are here have been here for years... There is no room for newcomers." He called on the congregation to "put pressure" on the Government and to write to their MPs and the Prime Minister.

The Anglican Bishop of Manchester urged the government to offer asylum to some of the 30,000 who have fled Mosul since the city was seized by Islamic State, who ordered them to convert, pay a tax or flee. Bishop David Walker told the BBC that UK involvement in the Iraq war meant it had a moral obligation.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK has a proud record of offering sanctuary to those who need it. Every claim for asylum is carefully considered on its individual merits." Regarding Canon White's claim that no Iraqi fleeing the troubles had been granted refuge in Britain, he added: "We are unable to verify this claim as information on the detail of the basis of an asylum claim is not routinely recorded on Home Office databases."

Last week Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was among the many church leaders and celebrities who changed their homepage photo to the Arabic letter for "N" in solidarity with persecuted Christians suffering in Iraq.

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