The media here in the UK and in the USA is, understandably, reporting the situation in Gaza; the deaths of dozens of people, many unarmed civilians, is obviously a cause for concern and something of interest to listeners, viewers and readers. One might almost say it gives the lie to the cynical notion that the British and American public aren’t interested in far-away places of which they know little; but then one might have to explain why the news outlets have said almost nothing about what is going on in Mosul and the rest of Iraq. The cynics will say that the one involves Jews killing Arabs and vice versa, which is always news, whilst the latter is just Arabs killing Arabs, which isn’t; but the cynic, whilst perhaps having a point, misses a wider one. Events in Gaza are only remotely the responsibility of Britain and America; events in Mosul are much more directly linked to our more recent actions. That being so, one might have expected President Obama and Mr Cameron, neither noted for a reticence to appear on camera, and neither famed for having taken Trappist vows, to have said something; they haven’t. That is a cause for shame, a concept to which, perhaps, our politicians are dead, but one which needs reviving in the interests of good government.
Speaking on the radio news this lunchtime, the Bishop of Manchester has called for Britain to follow France in offering those fleeing Mosul asylum; that the Home Office has responded in best officialese that ‘every application is dealt with on its merits’, ought to beggar belief. No doubt 30,000 people fleeing the threat of death have the time to sit down and fill in a form so someone can assess their ‘case’; such a response is another sign of a government dead to a sense of shame. It has not been unknown for these pages to criticise the Church of England, well let it be said to the eternal credit of its bishops that they have issued a call to Mr Cameron to act to offer asylum to the refugees. His Eminence, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster has issued a statement on Gaza, but the same website is silent about Mosul; perhaps the Cardinal has said something, but if so, it appears to have escaped the notice of Google.
There is a splendid piece on the First Things site, which I commend to anyone with an interest in these things, which offers a critique of why we bear a heavy weight of responsibility, and why we should be helping the Christians of Iraq. It also says something which needs saying – which is that it should not be a case that the West allows Christians to be driven from their homeland by ISIS – which echoes an eloquent appeal by the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad. One of the few politicians in the West to say anything about this, Virginia Republican, Frank Wolf, has called upon the President to act, by giving humanitarian aid to the refugees in Kurdistan. That would be a good start, but the Kurds are not going to be able to hold back ISIS without other sorts of help.
The Christians of Iraq are undergoing a silent Calvary. The other day the saintly Vicar of Baghdad tweeted: “I am sorry to say that the news here continues to get worse.The media seem to have forgotten what is happening..” Canon Andrew White has borne, and continues to bear, an heroic witness to the suffering of his fellow Christians in Iraq. He does not ask which denomination they belong to, he sees Christ, as Christ wanted us to, in all who suffer in His Holy Name. But the good Canon, like the blogger Cranmer, speaks with passion into a moral void. The so-called leaders of the so-called Free World are revealed as moral pygmies. But they are not alone: where are the ‘stop the war’ marchers on this one? Where are the outraged editorials on Channel 4 news? If it comes to asylum, yes, we must offer it, regardless of the domestic political ramifications; but it should not come to that, nor should it have come to this. Countless millions of dollars have been spent equipping the Iraqi army, what is it doing with that equipment? War material promised to the Kurds must be delivered to them, as must any ‘military advice’ we can offer. Anyone who thinks that ISIS will stop at exterminating Christians from one part of the Middle East will find they are wrong.
If our leaders will do nothing, we must, for, as Jesus tells us in the 25th chapter of St Matthew’s Gospel, beginning at verse 35:
35 For I hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in;
36 naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.’
37 Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we Thee hungering and fed Thee, or thirsty and gave Thee drink?
38 When saw we Thee a stranger and took Thee in, or naked and clothed Thee?
39 Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?’
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’
And, of course, of your charity, pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq.