Church calls for prayers and action over Iraq

Leading figures in the Church of Scotland are urging the Westminster parliament to be recalled so MPs can debate potential action in response to the crisis in Iraq.

Highlighting the atrocities carried out by the Islamic State on vulnerable civilians including the Christian and Yazidi communities, the Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev John Chalmers, suggests the UK should consider opening its borders to those who need asylum.

Iraqi Yazidi children Iraqi Yazidi children at Newroz refugee camp in north eastern Syria after fleeing Islamic State militants. Picture: Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee

In a statement sent to the Prime Minister, the Moderator is joined by the Rev Iain Cunningham, convener of the Church's World Mission Council and the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of Church and Society Council, in calling for money and prayers to assist the humanitarian work on the ground. They also suggest MPs should consider the case for stronger action to combat a brutal regime.

The statement, which is attached, says:

"Some of the atrocities committed by Islamic State on vulnerable civilians including the Christian and Yazidi communities, are too barbaric to imagine and civilised society cannot sit by and do nothing while wanton acts of violence are being carried out by such radicalized extremists. We welcome, therefore, our Government's commitment to air-drops to those caught in this most desperate humanitarian disaster and we believe that Parliament should be recalled in order to debate the human rights, international peace and security, refugee and UK armed forces implications of this deepening crisis.

It is also our view that Scotland and the wider UK should open its arms and its borders to embrace those who need asylum. In 2003, we were part of the force which invaded Iraq, so we played a part in bringing about the conditions which have led to the current perilous instability. How can we ignore our moral duty to assist the victims?"

They are appealing to the Church of Scotland's 400,000 members and the wider public to pray for an end to the conflict and donate to humanitarian organisations such as Christian Aid. They are also asking the Church's 1400 congregations to consider writing to their MPs, signing petitions and taking part in the debate on social media.

The full statement is attached, as well as a list of practical ways in which people can help respond to the crisis.

The Church of Scotland, Scotland's largest Church, is a member of the World Council of Churches and supports its statement on Iraq.