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Government 'disengaged' over Iraq's persecuted Christians

An Iraqi archbishop has urged believers to join him in protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Saturday, calling on the UK government to do more to stop the persecution of Christians in Iraq.

Syrian Orthodox Church UK Archbishop, Athanasius Toma Dawod believes not enough is being done to tackle militant group Islamic State.

It follows an ultimatum given to Christians last week by the group to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed.

Speaking to Premier, he said: "I am from Mosul, everyday I speak with them; I speak with the bishop, and the priest. They inform me step by step what is going on, people now are starving, there is no food, no medicine outside Mosul".

John Pontifex from Aid to the Church in Need, the organisation behind Saturday's rally has accused the government of having a 'lacklustre and disengaged' approach and wants the UK's politicians to show leadership on the issue, he said:"For the first time we have seen no Christian presence, no mass, no liturgy, no celebration of the Christian faith permitted, with all the communities having now fled."

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, has also published three prayers highlighting the worsening situation in Iraq.The prayers highlight the experience of Christians of Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, where families have been forced to flee and faced execution by Salaafi militants.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan's government has offered refugees a 'safe-haven' in the wake of order.

Leaders in the autonomous region of Iraq have now said Christians will be offered a 'safe haven' in Kurdistan and will be welcomed, protected and free to practise their religion.

Speaking to religious liberty organisation Release International, the region's newly-appointed Religious Affairs Minister, Kamal Muslim, gave the assurance, he said: "Kurdistan will always be a safe haven for those leaving their places of terror."

Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth is the Duty bishop in the House of Lords this week.

He told Premier what's happening in the country must be stopped: "I think we need an international effort to protect Christian believers.

"Also remembering that terrible things are happening to Shia believers in Islam at the moment in Mosul and other parts of the area that ISIS has claimed."

Meanwhile, displaced Christians have expressed anger towards the international community for failing to protect them or offer asylum.

One priest, who cannot be named, told Release International, that he was furious that Britain "offered visas to terrorists", but refused to grant them to Iraqi Christians.

The priest was also dismayed that British jihadis were among the ISIS fighters.
"There is no hope, no future. All we have is war and killing and fighting," says Thiar, a Christian refugee. He says he desperately wants to leave the country and join the rest of his family in Germany.

Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod:

John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need:

Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth:

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