Archbishop of Canterbury urges Britain to open doors to persecuted Iraqi Christians

August 8, 2014

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on ministers to offer asylum to Christians driven from their homes by Islamic jihadists rampaging through Iraq. The Most Rev Justin Welby backed calls by a number of bishops who said Britain should offer sanctuary to thousands of Iraqis facing violence and death. His intervention comes days after France said it was “outraged by the abuses” in the country and ready to give asylum to those who needed it. The Archbishop said: “I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.” The flight of Christians in the face of Islamic State has been described by the vicar of Baghdad’s Anglican Church, Canon Andrew White, as bringing “the end of Christianity very near” in Iraq.

In 2003, before the allied invasion, there were about a million Christians, in Iraq. About three quarters have left since amid the civil war and targeted attacks by jihadists. In a statement issued on Friday from the Philippines, where he was visiting fellow bishops, Archbishop Welby warned that Christians and other minorities were facing “terrible suffering”. “What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

He added that the international community needed to challenge a “culture of impunity” which has allowed atrocities to take place. Any human rights abuses should be documented so that perpetrators can be prosecuted in the future, he said. He warned that the plight of those in Iraq was part of an “evil pattern around the world” where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted because of their faith.