Islamic militants attempting ‘extermination’ of religious minorities and must face international justice, insists coalition of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh leaders
Jihadis plotting the “extermination” of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq could get away with crimes against humanity unless the British Government acts now, the leaders of the major faiths in the UK have warned.
In a rare show of unity, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Zoroastrian leaders have issued a joint call to David Cameron to use the UK’s seat on the UN Security Council to begin the process of bringing war crimes prosecutions against militants from Isil – short for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The recent wave of atrocities, including forced conversion, beheadings and crucifixions of Christians and Yazidis amount to a “tragedy of historic proportions”, they insist in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
They are demanding that the international community make clear now that those responsible will be punished and that the “gross and systemic” slaughter and exile of religious minorities must stop.
The call comes amid outrage over the murder of the US journalist James Foley who was beheaded by an Isil militant who spoke with a British accent.
The faith leaders are calling for the Government to use its position on the United Nations Security Council to press for a resolution to trigger an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
“Such violations as are currently taking place are crimes against humanity that must be both stopped and punished,” they write.
“The culture of impunity within which these dehumanising atrocities have been committed needs to be challenged most vigorously.
“Given that Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court, the Government must now work towards a United Nations Security Council Resolution that refers this matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation and where necessary prosecution.
“The international community must send a clear signal of intent to those who are committing such atrocities that at some point they will be held accountable for their actions.”
The signatories, led by the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, the Church of England’s main foreign affairs spokesman, include his Roman Catholic counterpart, the Rt Revd Declan Lang, the Bishop of Clifton, as well as the leader of the Coptic Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, and Archbishop Gregorios, the Greek Orthodox leader.
Islamic leaders including Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain are among the signatories while Jewish representatives include Dayan Ivan Binstock, a leading member of the Beth Din, the Chief Rabbi’s court, and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, leader of the Reform wing of Judaism in the UK.
Lord Singh, the Sikh leader, and Ramesh Pattni, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain and Malcolm M Deboo, president, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe, have also signed the letter.
They warn that the recent atrocities in Iraq form part of a major wave of wave of religious persecution around the world.
“These violations are sadly part of a wider global pattern of increased societal hostility and government restrictions against freedom of religion or belief,” they insist.
“Governments, international institutions and Non Governmental Organisations need to recognise this wider crisis and commit the necessary time, energy and resources to ensure greater respect for this fundamental freedom in order to attempt to forestall such further tragedies.”
Last night the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the militants as “psychopathic”.
“Each day [Isil] seeks to carry out an act more barbarous than the day before, craving the oxygen of publicity to give credibility to their heinous acts,” the MCB said.
“We condemn unreservedly their psychopathic violence, whether it is on minorities, on civilians, or on fellow Muslims.”