‘We Are All Human’ proclaim faith leaders standing together against violence in Iraq
On Wednesday 3rd September 2014, three faith-inspired aid agencies, religious leaders and politicians gathered at Westminster Abbey for a solidarity vigil for all those suffering in the current conflict in Iraq. Islamic Relief teamed up with World Jewish Relief and Christian Aid, and welcomed a host of community leaders including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra and Ayatollah Milani.
The vigil propelled the message that ‘We Are All Human’, to oppose the targeting of civilians in Iraq and deliberate discrimination against certain groups on the basis of religion.
Iraq is currently facing its worst humanitarian crisis since 2006. UN figures suggest at least 1,300 have been killed, and over 1,250 injured. Since violence broke out in January 2014, over 1.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes to seek shelter and security. Many were forced to leave with only the clothes they were wearing, and have dispersed across 1,400 locations in Iraq.
Large numbers of individuals and families from all over Northern and Central Iraq including Anbar, Dahuk, Ninewa, Erbil, Mosul and Sulaymaniyah, are sheltering in churches, schools, mosques and unfinished buildings. The Yazidi and Christian communities and Muslim families have all been severely affected.
Religious leaders and politicians including Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Stephen Timms MP held a banner outside Westminster Abbey declaring #WeAreAllHuman. The opening speech was delivered by David Pain from Christian Aid, who eloquently summed up the purpose of the vigil: “Today we stand with and amongst a community of people who are appealing for the protection of all people. We are all human.”
David talked about the importance of forming alliances across society in order to tackle poverty worldwide. He ended his speech outlining a very strong position: “We deplore the attacks and atrocities that have been committed against all civilians in Iraq and neighbours…We condemn all discrimination and attacks on the basis of identity, both in Iraq and here in our own communities.”
Zia Salik, Islamic Relief’s National Community Fundraising Manager, spoke of his recent harrowing visit to northern Iraq. He told the story of Sherman Haj, whose family has been separated and left with nothing. He recalled: “When we arrived with this convoy of aid, it was the first bit of water and food they’d been given in over a week. The war is killing people, but the poverty that is being left behind in its wake is going to kill people if we don’t continue providing the essential aid they need.”
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism, focused on the sanctitiy of all human life, telling the audience: “Our rabbis taught us that no one’s blood is redder than another’s, that no person’s life is more valuable than another’s. As faith communities, we will always stand together against tyranny, oppression and the violation of human rights.”
The event had a warm atmosphere in which people across faiths and aid organisations emphasised the importance of working together, despite any attempts to divide people along lines of religion. Shaykh Ibrahim Moghra effectively summed up the collaboration: “For those who thought that interfaith is just about talking over tea and biscuits, it is also about action which is demonstrated here today.”