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Bishop calls for action in Iraq crisis
21/08/14

The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, is pressing the UK Government to take action over the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, Bishop Christopher is the first of over a dozen inter-faith leaders who are united in calling for such action. He is the Church of England's Lead Bishop on Foreign Affairs, and this letter follows his recent House of Lords speech in which he addressed the lack of religious freedom in Iraq.

The letter sent to the Daily Telegraph said:

"What we are witnessing in Northern Iraq today is a tragedy of historic proportions in which thousands of innocent people are at immediate risk of death for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief, a right set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is being denied in the most gross and systemic way possible through the attempted extermination of religious minorities. There is no religious justification for the violation of this inalienable human right.

Such violations as are currently taking place are crimes against humanity that must be both stopped and punished. The culture of impunity within which these dehumanising atrocities have been committed needs to be challenged most vigorously. Given that Iraq is not a  state party to the International Criminal Court, the Government must now work towards a United Nations Security Council Resolution that refers this matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation and where necessary prosecution. The international community must send a clear signal of intent to those who are committing such atrocities that at some point they will be held accountable for their actions.

These violations are, however, sadly part of a wider global pattern of increased societal hostility and government restrictions against freedom of religion or belief. Governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations need to recognise this wider crisis and commit the necessary time, energy and resources to ensure greater respect for this fundamental freedom in order to attempt to forestall such further tragedies."

"A rare show of unity"

The Daily Telegraph described this letter as a rare show of unity in which "Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Zoroastrian leaders have issued a joint call to David Cameron to use the UK’s seat on the UN Security Council to begin the process of bringing war crimes prosecutions against militants from Isil – short for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."

This letter was signed by:

  • The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Lord Bishop of Coventry, Church of England’s Lead Bishop on Foreign Affairs
  • Commissioner Clive Adams, Territorial Commander, Salvation Army
  • His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
  • The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson, Bishop of Bedford
  • Dayan (Judge) Ivan Binstock, Court of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
  • Malcolm M Deboo, President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe
  • His Eminence Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
  • Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
  • The Rt Revd Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton, Chairman, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
  • Ayatollah Dr Sayed Fazel Milani, Imam al-Khoei Islamic Centre, London
  • Ramesh Pattni, Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
  • Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza, OBE, Principal Imam, Leicester Central Mosque, Leicester
  • Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
  • Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Vice-Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief
Speaking in the House of Lords

On the 24th July 2014, Bishop Christopher spoke in the House of Lords in support of religious freedom as part of the Human Rights debate.

Bishop Christopher contributed towards the debate on religious freedom in relation to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the House of Lords. This debate came amid continued reports about persecution due to faith in so many countries across the world.

Bishop Christopher’s contribution can be read by clicking here.

Following increasing unrest and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Christians living in the Iraqi city of Mosul have been forced to leave, convert to Islam or be executed. You can show your support by signing an online petition which encourages the United Nations and Arab League to act upon the radical agenda of ISIS, and intervene to protect Christian communities in Iraq and Syria.