venerdì, marzo 06, 2015

 

Reform asylum system for persecuted Christians, says conference speaker

By Church Times
Madeleine Davies

THE UK asylum system's "ridiculous" approach to persecuted Christians in the Middle East must be reformed, a conference heard on Saturday.
The speaker, an Egyptian research Fellow at the University of Sussex, Dr Mariz Tadros, also challenged those who caution against Christians' leaving the region.
"I strongly disagree with the idea that, if we let them go, they will not come back," she said. "It's a very male-biased representation of what is going on. [We are hearing from] non-married religious leaders, not the mothers of young daughters at risk of being kidnapped, or of sons feeling almost suicidal."
She described the response of the UK asylum system to Christians seeking asylum as "atrocious", and "ridiculous". She said: "There needs to be pressure on Western governments to say 'Open your borders to allow these people to come.' They are dying of hunger and cold on the borders of Lebanon and Jordan."
The Archbishop of Canterbury has echoed the concerns of religious leaders in the region about "emptying it" of Christians ( News, 5 September). On Saturday, an Armenian and a former curator of the Eastern Christian Collection at the British Library, the Revd Dr Vrej Nersessian, said of those leaving: "It is not a joy to leave their country and live in Helsinki - this is not our native place. It is foreign to us."
Dr Tadros and Dr Nersessian were speaking at a conference on Christians in the Middle East organised by the British Trust for Tantur, and Heythrop College.
Dr Tadros believes that people "cringe at the idea of talking about Christians of the Middle East facing an existential crisis". After presenting data concerning the number of Egyptian Christians kidnapped and killed in Libya, she criticised reports that shied away from making explicit what she believed to be incontrovertible: "We have to say that, when they are targeted, it is because they are Christians."
Also present was the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Mar Antoine Audo, who acknowledged that many Christians had left Syria to escape both the conflict and poverty.
"I am convinced that the Christians in Arab Muslim contexts have a special vocation," he said. "We call it the acceptance of difference. We were able to live for centuries and contribute to culture. . . . We are trying to do our best to stay and give testimony, and stay open to the Muslim people, especially in charitable activities."
Another perspective was provided by an Iraqi, Dr Suha Rassam, who has written a history of Christianity in her country. "It has reached the point of near-genocide," she warned.
Asked about a call for Western ground troops by the Archbishop of Erbil, the Rt Revd Bashar Warda, Dr Rassam said: "For Christians, time is running out. The clock is ticking, and, unless we get action being taken, not many will be left. . . At his [Archbishop Warda's] church he received suddenly 7000 families in a day, and had to deal with them on the spot. . . He is on the front line, and he is seeing people leaving because he cannot do more."
She continued: "When [Western] forces destroyed Saddam, they did it in a week; so why is this. . . ? It is doing nothing, and we have a very cruel regime. They [IS] are not only in Iraq and Syria, but may even be in Europe."
She said that "there is no way we can dialogue with these people. How do we get rid of them? We need to act quickly: otherwise, all the Christians of Iraq will be lost. We are asking for immediate help, whether political or military.
"Who is providing weapons? It is the responsibility of the international community to cut the blood supply to Daesh [IS]."
Her question was echoed by Bishop Audo, who said: "We have to say, from the countries like Saudi Arabia, if they can get all the Christians out of the Middle East, for them it is a historical victory."
Dr Nersessian, who was remembering the centenary of the Armenian genocide next month, said: "For me to live in the 21st century in a Western country, and have people arguing whether it was a genocide, is naïve and unnecessary, because it hurts our memory. Every nation in the world has a memory, and to deny it was a genocide is to deny the young people of today a memory. You are telling them that it did not happen. . .
"I am a little pessimistic. But it is difficult to bear the brunt of a million people massacred. We have been crippled for the past 100 years by thinking about genocide. How can we make the world acknowledge it?"

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