Unlike the European Parliament and the United States, Britain has refused to acknowledge genocide by Islamic State

The Bishop of Shrewsbury will on Easter Sunday urge the Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq at the hands of Islamic State.

In an Easter morning homily preached in Shrewsbury Cathedral, Bishop Mark Davies will echo the opinion of Pope Francis, the United States and the European Parliament that the atrocities committed by ISIS constitute a campaign of genocide.

In the text, released in advance, the bishop said: “This Easter, we must ask our own Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the crime of genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other minorities in the very region where the Christian faith began.

“The British Government has refused to join other western governments in recognising this intent to destroy a people. The indiscriminate terror visited on the streets of Europe’s cities, whose victims we are remembering today reflects the same hate-filled violence which is focused on the destruction of whole communities.

“In addressing the refugee crisis on a historic scale we also need to urgently address what causes families to flee from violence and terror,” he said.

“Christian leaders across the region … remind us that in responding to the symptoms of this crisis, we must not turn our eyes from its cause. The danger of ‘compassion fatigue’ or despair at the chaos of a whole region demands we find renewed energy to work for peace.

“In this past century Europe has learnt the lessons of peace amid death and destruction and a vast refugee crisis. In 1945 and again in 1989, Europe drew on its inheritance of Christian faith and values to rebuild the peace of this continent and the life of its peoples shattered by war and genocide.

“It is only in being true to this faith, which teaches us the value and dignity of every human being, that Europe will be able to rise to meet new challenges and be capable of building peace rather than contributing to further chaos and destruction. The world looks to us not for the politics of narrow self-interest; but for the hope that enduring peace can be built.”

In Britain, the Government has resisted calls to recognise genocide in spite of receiving a letter from 75 politicians asking it to do so. Among those who signed was Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the former head of the British armed forces, and Lord Evans of Weardale, the former head of MI5.

On Monday an amendment to the Immigration Bill was rejected by 148 votes to 111 after the Government imposed a whip on Conservative peers to ensure that it would fail.

The measure, tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, had proposed that the High Court should decide if the atrocities committed against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constituted genocide.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, this month declared the actions of Islamic State to be genocide. Earlier, the US House of Representative had voted unanimously to recognise the crimes as genocide and the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have also reached the same conclusion.

If a resolution recognising the genocide was adopted by the United Nations, the countries which have signed the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide would have an obligation to bring the activities of ISIS to an end, to prioritise the protection of the victims, and to pursue and prosecute perpetrators once the hostilities were over.

Full text

The Gospel of Easter Morning recounts how, in the first light of the first day of the week, the disciples made their way to Christ’s tomb (Jn. 20:1). In a similar way, last October I walked with Shrewsbury pilgrims in the darkness of a Sunday morning to Tomb of Christ as it is found in Jerusalem today. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you are aware of the faith and veneration through the centuries which have surrounded the place where they laid Him (Mk.16:7) and aware too, that this same tomb has been repeatedly torn down yet still stands today as a silent witness to Christ’s Resurrection. In a city which has seen so much violence and destruction, this empty tomb, remains in Pope St John Paul II’s words, the sign of the “victory of truth over falsehood, of good over evil, of mercy over sin, of life over death”.

The emptiness of the tomb was not, of course, proof of Christ’s Resurrection, but it was a sign pointing to the hope which “does not deceive” (Rom. 5:5). The empty tomb stands as a sign of hope today in the midst of a region now riven by violent conflict. Pope Francis ceaselessly draws the world’s attention to the human agony in this region and especially to the plight of minorities, including Christian communities whose witness to the Resurrection has continued for 20 centuries and who now face extinction. In Pope Francis’s words communities and individuals are: “subjected to barbaric acts of violence … evicted from their homes … sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified … under the shameful and complicit silence of so many” (Strasbourg 25th November 2014).

“This Easter, we must ask our own Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the crime of genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other minorities in the very region where the Christian faith began. The British government has refused to join other western governments in recognising this intent to destroy a people. The indiscriminate terror visited on the streets of Europe’s cities, whose victims we are remembering today, reflects the same hate-filled violence which is focused on the destruction of whole communities. In addressing the refugee crisis on a historic scale we surely also need to urgently address what causes families to flee from violence and terror. We could never fail to respond to the need of our neighbour without recalling those dread words of our Lord: “insofar as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to it to me” (Mt. 25:46). Yet, Christian leaders across the region also remind us that in responding to the symptoms of this crisis, we must not turn our eyes from its cause.

The danger of ‘compassion fatigue’ or despair at the chaos of a whole region demands we find renewed energy to work for peace. In this past century Europe has learnt the lessons of peace amid death and destruction and a vast refugee crisis. In 1945 and again in 1989, Europe drew on its inheritance of Christian faith and values to re-build the peace of this continent and the life of its peoples shattered by war and genocide. It is only in being true to this faith, which teaches us the value and dignity of every human being, that Europe will be able to rise to meet new challenges and be capable of building peace rather than contributing to further chaos and destruction. The world looks to us not for the politics of narrow self-interest; but for the hope that enduring peace can be built. In an impassioned plea to the European

Parliament, Pope Francis insisted that only a Europe true to the faith and hope which formed its life can become “a precious point of reference for all humanity.” This was the faith and hope born on Easter morning in the very place where death and violence seemed to have prevailed; and we too have “seen and believed” in the hope which was first recognised in the emptiness of Christ’s tomb (Jn. 20: 9). Amid all the crises of history, we look to “the one Morning star who never sets. Christ your Son, who coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity and lives and reign

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