Will anyone resign because we are failing Iraqi Christians?

iraqi-christiansA minister resigns over the government’s policy in Israel and Gaza. And the shock is not so much that Baroness Warsi resigned, but that the government had a policy on Gaza over which one was able to protest.

Because the government seem as helpless as you or me. And it’s not just in that particular corner of the Middle East that violence is leaving its bloody scars. In Syria, the war continues, in Iraq, the illusion of peace is extinguished.

But those stories slip down the agenda, and each new insurgence, coup or catastrophe demotes the last to also run status. The fragile ceasefire and hope for peace in Gaza comes after horrendous loss of life and humanitarian vandalism in the previous month. I struggle to understand the right and wrong, whose side has the just cause and who is the aggressor, I want things nice and simple, I want options laid out on a menu, and if I don’t like what is chosen then I can protest. Then I could, if I were a government minister, tender an honourable resignation in support of a cause I am passionate about.

If only more people would resign, like Baroness Warsi, because of government inaction to support those who share their faith in the hardest corners of the earth.

Today two senior officials from Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were found guilty of crimes against humanity. In their eighties they still remain resolute of their ignorance and innocence of the atrocities committed. In March I walked around the killing fields, I saw the fragments of bone still rising through the soil nearly four decades later, I walked around the school turned into a torture facility – a place where thousands passed through over four years but just 11 walked out alive. This was genocide, this was horrific: this was man killing man for no other reason than they could potentially pose a threat to one man’s idea of what society should be like. I wondered at the time whether it made it better or worse that this wasn’t killing an ethnic or religious group, it wasn’t like the holocaust or the Rwandan genocide, and that’s a moot point because it was horror laid on horror, a legacy that haunts a country grappling to find its way out of poverty, searching for ways to rebuild trust among its population – who had been taught to hate one another.

A13310755845_038146b4d2_ond I wished someone had resigned over that. What if there was a Cambodian in the British cabinet, or the American administration, who caught an inkling of what was happening and stood up and said no more. No more vacillation, no more vague good intentions, but something has to be done when children are being taken from their families and smashed against trees.

So often we call for advocacy on behalf of the voiceless regardless of their faith or ethnicity, and we should and it’s important. But those who share my faith are dying today, and we should speak for them. It is for them that I cry out, and for whom we should shout. And Christian politicians looking at the plight of Christians, especially in Iraq, should despair at the inaction of their government and resign.

The violence against Christians in Iraq is not negligible, it is horrific. The deaths caused by an insurgency seeking to create an Islamic State covering Iraq and Syria are not just of Christians, but as Christians we should be especially vocal in speaking out for their protection. This is not a simple act of self-interest, it is the defence of freedom which benefits all. The thousands of Yazidi Iraqis forced to shelter on a mountain top, and slowly dying because that is no place to shelter. They too need protection and advocacy, this morning I had no idea who they are, a small group which blends Christian and Zoroastrian beliefs and branded by ISIS as devil worshippers.

What’s happening in Iraq is genocide.

As Philip Jenkins writes: We often read of the birth and growth of churches, very rarely of their deaths. In Mosul, however, we may be seeing the end of an astounding example of Christian continuity that lasted nearly two millennia.”

The US Catholic Bishop’s Conference wrote last week to National Security Advisor Susan Rice, they said: “The urgent situation in Iraq demands both our prayers and action. U.S. humanitarian assistance for the victims of the conflict is critical. In addition, our nation must take diplomatic measures. Our nation bears a special responsibility toward the people of Iraq.”

There is no doubt that this is a hard situation to respond to, and made harder by the legacy of US and UK military involvement in Iraq, the opposition to that involvement and the problems it created. Because of the loss of life British military action caused then there is understandable, but regretful, hesitancy about getting involved in any way now. But abstinence out of fear is shameful. Especially when we think of Canon Andrew White and others who are committed to serving in Iraq and have refused to move regardless of the threat to their life.

I know of no Yazidi politicians in the British government who can resign in solidarity and in protest that we are not doing enough, that we are not doing anything. But I know of plenty of Christians. I know of Christians committed to their faith and passionate about defending religious freedom, and above all, thinking death is never a suitable sentence for refusing to convert.

I wonder if there are any men or women of principle, who seeing the violence, hearing of the persecution, witnessing the horrors that scar the landscape of where the church has its ancient foundations, turn down the privileges and the prospects that their post affords and hand in their resignation. It is shameful that as a country we are doing nothing.

As Dan Hodges puts it, lets not wait for the books and the films, lets not wait to shed a tear as we read the next We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, or wait to stare in horror at the next Hotel Rwanda.

Is there an honourable man or woman in today’s government who cannot stand that we stand by while Christians are slaughtered and forced from their homes? Who instead of standing by, stands up and says that something must be done.

Who will resign out of protest that we are not coming to the aid of the Christians and the Yazidi: the persecuted and the hounded of Iraq?

Death and all his friends

The last mile of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Newtown shootings. The 26th mile for the 26 who died.

Reports suggest family members lined the final mile. Tragedy upon tragedy. Tears weighed down with grief. Reports also suggest no one from Newtown was among those killed or injured in the bomb blast.

And I want to say that amid the trauma and the tragedy that is the faintest glimmer of good news.

And I suppose it is. But pain is not dealt out in equal measure. Suffering is not even handed. Suffering is the plaything of a crooked dealer wielding death and destruction, rending families apart. Taking from a father who was running the marathon an eight year old son who was cheering him along.

Fairness does not have a say when death is at hand. Death is indiscriminate in who it takes, who it hurts and who it leaves behind.

God and Politics got there before me and wrote this morning: Yesterday’s bombings in Iraq have killed at least 31 people and wounded more than 200, yet we hardly react to it at all.”

That is not the worst of it, bombs ahead of the upcoming elections killed scores more over the weekend. When it is almost a daily occasion news slips out of the news. It stops being of interest, it is simply one more tragedy piled upon a nation torn to shreds, and we look the other way.

Whether it is the Boston bombings, or in Iraq, or the acts of Kermit Gonsell carrying out late term abortions in torrid conditions, death seems closer than usual.

Tomorrow the streets of London will be lined with fans, adherents and hecklers as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral takes place. She was never anything but a historical figure to me, out of Downing Street before I could tie my shoelaces. But in death emotions are stirred and we are reminded that what we do in life matters.

I was far more affected by the death of Brennan Manning. Philip Yancey wrote in the forward to his final book: As you read this memoir you may be tempted, as I am, to think “Oh, what might have been…if Brennan hadn’t given into drink.” I urge you to reframe the thought to, “Oh, what might have been…if Brennan hadn’t discovered grace.”’

In death we look back because we cannot see any further forward.

And in the end we lie awake and dream of making our escape.

Or at least so say Coldplay.

But I think that they are wrong.

Escape is not the goal.

We are not in heaven’s waiting room.

We live amid the rubble and the destruction and the tears and the grief and in it all we search for the glimmer of hope that points to something which says one day all of that will go away. One day cheeks will not be stained by the soft hint of swiftly mopped up tears.

One day the church militant, those of us living each day fighting for strength, battling evil, will have struggled for its last time.

But that day isn’t when we step onto an intergalactic elevator to move us through the stars.

God came to us. He invited us into his arms as he hung on the cross. The suffering servant that gave hope in His dying breath.

This God hasn’t given up on us. And he hasn’t given up on the world he created.