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Middle East

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL2749, tabled on 10 November 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking and intend to take in the future to ameliorate the situation of members of the Syriac Orthodox Church and other Christian communities in Iraq and Syria in the light of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in those countries.

Answered on

20 November 2014

The British Government strongly condemns the persecution of communities on the basis of their religion, belief or ethnicity. We are concerned about the growing number of reports of Christians, and other minority groups, being targeted in Syria with many having already fled to camps in Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan. The UK has committed a total of £700 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the region. Of this, £314 million has already been allocated to help ensure refugees from Syria are supported in neighbouring countries. We are supporting non-governmental efforts to promote dialogue between different ethnic and sectarian groups in Syria, with a view to a future political settlement. We are also funding training for Syrian activists to document abuses to a criminal law standard with the aim that this documentation could be used in a future process of accountability. In Iraq we have committed £23 million of humanitarian assistance to help those who have fled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advances. Following lobbying from the UK and other international partners, a resolution was passed at the Human Rights Council in September, mandating the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to despatch a mission to investigate and report on ISIL abuses. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), met the Archbishop Athanasius of the Syriac Orthodox Church in London on 29 July to discuss the situation for religious groups in the region and issued a statement condemning reported threats against Christians in Iraq and Syria. We continue to encourage influential religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly and condemn sectarian violence.