UK Gov't Blasted for Not Prioritizing Christians Fleeing Islamic State Violence

A displaced Christian child, who fled Islamic State, poses for a photograph at Zayuna camp in Baghdad December 23, 2015. (REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily)

Lord Alton of Liverpool, who speaks out regularly on human rights, denounced the U.K. government's refugee policy for not prioritizing Christians from Syria and Iraq who are "on the receiving end of the very worst of ISIS's campaign of beheadings, unspeakable violence, forced conversions, rape, and dispossession of homes, livelihoods and thousands of years of faith, culture and identity."

He blasted the government's "obsession with 'non-discrimination,'" which has led to Christians fleeing ISIS being grouped with other refugees whose lives are not in immediate danger.

"In one sense, when Ministers boast that Christians are not 'discriminated against' they are right. It's far, far worse than discrimination – a campaign of total annihilation is underway, which is why these minorities should be discriminated in favor of," Lord Alton, a Catholic, argued, according to Catholic Herald. "Of course we should discriminate in favor of those most at risk, not least because we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable."

The Archbishop of Canterbury also expressed concern that the government's relocation policy only takes refugees from UNHCR camps while ignoring Christians who largely avoid the camps for fear of violence.

Lord Alton expressed his lament in a letter to Home Office minister Lord Bates over Christmas, saying, "If gay people (rightly) qualify as 'vulnerable' then Christians should too."

He accused ministers of running a flawed refugee policy which is "one-size-fits-all" and fails to adequately protect Christians fleeing ISIS. He argued that Christians "who represent no threat to this country" are given the same opportunity as "marauding young men" who assaulted more than 500 German women on New Year's Eve.

"You will know of the considerable weight of evidence of assassinations by ISIS of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity," Lord Alton wrote.

He told Lord Bates that the "complicated administrative procedure" employed by the U.K. government meant that in reality Christians were excluded from the chance of resettlement.

Bates, meanwhile, insisted that the government did not "discriminate" on the basis of religion and encouraged Christians to register as refugees in order to seek possible resettlement.

Pushing back, Lord Alton stressed, "Instead of creating a false even-handed dichotomy British policy should actively search out, and be weighed in favor of, those who are suffering the most."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has previously expressed support for Christian refugees in Syria and Iraq, did not reply to a previous letter sent by Alton in September. The letter called for Christians to be actively included in the 20,000 refugees set to be resettled in the U.K. by 2020.

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