A new manifesto has been released by the Barnabas Fund — an international aid agency helping persecuted Christians around the world, especially in places under Islamic domination — presenting seven actions needed to save entire Christian populations in the Middle East from elimination.
First comes the recognition that “without specific urgent action now, there is a very real danger that Christian communities will have ceased to exist in large parts of the Middle East by the time of the next general election in 2022.”
The recommendations are addressed to the U.K. government, but they apply to other Western governments that are capable of taking action.
“Soon after the 2003 Western-led military intervention in Iraq a targeted campaign of church bombings, kidnapping, and assassination of church leaders began,” the report explains. “Consequently, although only 3-4 percent of the Iraqi population were Christians, roughly a third of all Iraqis who have fled the country are Christians. When the Syrian civil war started in 2011, anti-Christian violence soon began there too. One of the jihadi groups targeting them evolved into IS. Christians and other non-Muslim minorities such as Yazidis have been executed and enslaved as jihadists seek to religiously cleanse the area of ancient communities such as Christians and Yazidis who have lived alongside Muslims for centuries, and very harmoniously in recent generations.”
The government, the manifesto states, should commit to protecting Christians and other minorities facing the threat of genocide in Iraq and Syria, and charge the United Nations Security Council and International Criminal Court with investigating and prosecuting such crimes.
Barnabas Fund notes 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
“In these five centuries the U.K. has led the world in developing freedom of religion and spreading it across the world. Yet freedom of religion is now significantly under attack. There is a very real threat that entire Christian communities, which have existed in large areas of the Middle East since the first century of Christianity, will quite literally have been eliminated by the time of the next U.K. general election in 2022.
“This threat is not limited to the Middle East. Similar religious cleansing is also happening in places such as northern Nigeria and Somalia. The rise of persecution of Christians is due not simply to jihadi violence, but also to the formal introduction of Shariah, particularly blasphemy and apostasy laws, in an increasing number of countries.”
Freedom of religion includes, the report says, the freedom to practice a faith, freedom of worship, freedom to build churches, freedom to choose a faith system, the freedom to preach and evangelize and the absence of any requirement for people to hold a particular worldview.
Secondly, the report said, the U.K. should recognize that other jihadi groups, as well as ISIS, “are targeting Christians and other minorities, not only in the Middle East but also in other parts of the world.”
No. 3 is that the U.K. government “should take action to address the disproportionate under-representation of Syrian Christians among refugees referred for resettlement in the U.K.”
“Last year less than 2 percent of all Syrian refugees … were Christians. This is despite it being widely accepted that they constituted around 10 percent of the Syrian population. It is also widely recognized that they are specifically targeted by IS and other jihadi groups.”
No. 4 is that the government “should take active steps to combat the global spread of Islamic blasphemy laws and other laws or practices that have similar effects in muzzling free expression.”
There’s been a surge, the report says, in prosecutions of Christians for “alleged Islamic blasphemy and vigilante violence against those, often falsely, accused.”
The problem is so bad that in some countries where Shariah’s blasphemy prohibitions are enforced, a “mandatory death sentence can potentially be used against a Christian for simply stating certain aspects of the Christian faith.”
Fifth is a call for a report to the government on religious persecution, and No. 6 is a renewal to a commitment to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “to protect the rights of all U.K. residents who choose to convert to Christianity or any other religion or non-religious belief system.”
Finally, the report calls on the government to “recognize the increasing pressure on Christians in the public sector and public life to affirm beliefs contrary to historic biblical Christianity.”
“Tolerance, which means tolerating views one disagrees with, is being replaced by an attempt to impose uniform beliefs,” the report says.
Barnabas Fund, which assists Christians in Iraq, Syria, West Africa and East Africa, says the threat is significant.
“An attempt to wipe out entire ancient peoples from their homeland in the Middle East has seen only a handful given refuge in the U.K. At the same time the U.K.’s heritage of freedom of religion, hard won over the previous five centuries, is being incrementally eroded,” it says.