Bishops demand Government offer asylum to Iraqi Christians
From Canon Andrew White, Vicar of Baghdad: "We have just had terrible news that Baghdad International Airport has been shut down because of security risks. Without it we cannot go North to do the relief work or even leave the country. Please pray that we can get out."
As the Islamic State continues its programme of bloody executions and forced conversion, Canon White bears witness to the suffering: "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 8 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 there 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. The only hope and consolation is that all these dear people are now all with Yeshua in Glory."
ISIS/Islamic State have released a 'promotional video' which is too, too awful to post here.
And so we have. But the emphasis given to his reasoning is awry. "Given the vast amounts of money that we spent on the war in Iraq", he explains, "the tiny cost of bringing some people fleeing for their lives to this country and allowing them to settle – and who, in due course, would be an asset to our society – would seem to be minuscule."
It's a shame that the Bishop's sense of "moral duty" appears to be based on superficial financial comparatives. But this is a report by The Observer, one of the Bishops' favoured media for communicating homilies of gravity. And perhaps, given the scale of the trauma being inflicted upon Iraq's Christians, it seems churlish to quibble with the inference that the reason HM Government has not hitherto offered asylum is due to "Tory cuts".
As are very many of us. The burden has fallen largely on the Kurds, with a recent generous offer of asylum from France. But the rest of the EU is mute. And HM Government is more concerned with immigration curbs than acting justly and compassionately toward persecuted Christians in foreign lands.
It seems bizarre that David Cameron refuses to grant immediate asylum to Iraqi Christians fleeing the religious cleansing in Mosul. He waxes eloquently about his Christian faith and his faith in the Church of England, and on this matter his faith and his church ought to be gnawing at his conscience. The Bishop of Leeds is absolutely right: the Government "cannot remain silent and you cannot just issue words".
Wars and fighting are a product of the cravings that are at war within individuals (Js 4:1-3). We cannot stop them, and they will not cease until the Prince of Peace returns and the government rests upon His shoulder. In the meantime, it is incumbent upon Christians to accept suffering rather than inflict it. If that means we have to sell our swords to buy cloaks, or give away one of our coats to those who have none, then that is what we are commanded to do. It is our mission.
There is no point preaching the word or hearing it if we are not prepared to offer goodwill or share hospitality with widows and orphans. We were warned by Christ to prepare for a time of rejection and persecution. And he told us to pack our swords with our belongings, which is a vivid symbol that we can expect to encounter opposition. That time has now come for the Christians of Iraq and throughout vast swathes of the Arab and Muslim world.
As Bishop Nick says, we have a moral obligation to act. The offer of asylum is part of our Christian heritage which is the fons et origo of our law. These three bishops bear prophetic witness against the persecution and murder of our brothers and sisters in Iraq. They are challenging the Government with the authority that belongs to God, and by doing so they highlight the sharp boundary between the church and the world; between the community of Christ and the cult of secular politics. The liberal society is premised on freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of worship. These are our values. It is immoral that we are not prepared to help those with whom we share so much.