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Christian persecution 'off the scale' in Iraq, says Welby
18 August 2014 15:15 by Liz Dodd

The slaughter of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq is “off the scale of human horror,” the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, as it emerged he backed calls for the UK Government to appoint an ambassador for religious freedom to compensate for its silence over Christian persecution.

Speaking at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, where he is due to attend the inauguration of Archbishop Philip Freier as the Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Justin Welby said that while ISIS jihadis were “particularly savage”, Christians were persecuted worldwide.

Urging the international community to document the human rights abuses taking place in northern Iraq, he said: "As Anglican leaders, we cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world, and especially for Christians and other minority groups suffering so deeply in northern Iraq."

This weekend he backed a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron from the Bishop of Leeds expressing concern that the Government has no coherent strategy for dealing with Islamic extremism and strongly condemning its failure to speak up for Christians.

Bishop Nicholas Baines accused the Government of responding “in a reactive way” to events in the region and of prioritising the plight of the Yazidis at the expense of tens of thousands of Christians also fleeing their homes. 

“Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?” he wrote.


Bishop Baines' letter in full

This morning US and Kurdish forces looked set to take back the strategically important Mosul Dam, as UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the mission could last for months.

A delegation from the charity Aid to the Church in Need, which supports persecuted Christians, today described the panic of refugees they met in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, as the Bishop of the Forces, Richard Moth asked military chaplains to offer Mass for those persecuted for their faith on Sunday 31 August.