Last week many MPs and peers attended the launch of the Hope for the Middle East report, highlighting the desire of Christians in Syria and Iraq to be able to stay in their countries with equality, dignity and responsibility.
The launch was hosted by Kate Green MP, former Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and those in attendance also heard from Rami*, a Syrian Christian and Open Doors field worker, and Baroness Anelay, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. More
Ruth Gledhill reported in Christian Today that Rami, a Christian from Syria who escaped to Britain from Aleppo said many Christians would rather stay in the Middle East because they want to be part of the future of their countries. “Many of my friends in Syria are still in Damascus as well as Aleppo,” he said. Some even had the necessary paperwork to leave but were choosing to stay.
And they are living in a climate of fear and hopelessness.
“Beyond the physical and sexual violence we hear about, lies fear,” he said. This was partly fear of the unknown. “Christians don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.” There is a “thirst for a better form of government”, he added, and Christians need to be treated equally.
The other thing plaguing believers in Syria is hopelessness. “There has been one broken ceasefire after another. Is there ever going to be hope for Christians in Syria and Iraq?” He pleaded desperately for help. “Together we can contribute to influencing this change that Christians and others in Syria are asking for. It is their cry to you, not just to listen but also do all you can to support their right for a future.”
Christians do not see themselves as a minority but indigenous as much as any other community, he said. “Neither do Christians see themselves as a little group struggling to survive or maintain a presence in the Middle East.”
Lisa Pearce, chief executive officer of Open Doors, told the MPs at the meeting: “There are things you can do. There is influence you can exert. Many things have looked hopeless but have changed or been changed in history.”
Baroness Anelay said many of the issues brought up by Open Doors will be discussed at an international conference in Britain this week, where the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is among those who who will be looking at how violent extremism can be combated through building inclusive societies.
Among the recommendations to the Prime Minister, the FCO, DfID, Parliamentarians and Select Committees, there was this directed at APPGs: We welcome the continued commitment of the APPG for International FORB in promoting the importance of FORB in Parliament and beyond. We encourage its members to raise FORB in the Middle East as a priority, and ask all other APPGs to actively investigate the intersection between this important and all-pervasive right and your country or issue of concern, be that trade and investment, human trafficking and modern slavery, education etc.
Executive summary and recommendations
*name changed for security reasons