To Mr Donald Tusk
President of the European Council
To All members of the European Council
General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175 B-1048 Brussels Belgium
Brussels, the 30th of November 2014
Dear Mr President
Dear members of the European Council,
We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners to urge you to set immediate and long-term goals for intervention in the Syrian-Iraqi conflict—to protect Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities and stop the crimes against humanity that threaten their lives and fundamental rights. This is necessary to fulfil your commitments as European Union members to intervene to protect victims of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.
We work to assist people, our governments, foreign governments, and international bodies in supporting international freedom of religion or belief and the elimination of extremism and intolerance. We are committed to freedom of religion or belief for all peace-loving persons in all nations, regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender, and political affiliation, without surrendering our fervent devotion to the truth claims that undergird our own religious or philosophical convictions. We hope that this commitment will become an important aspect of the policies of the EU in both Syria and Iraq.
We are horrified and anguished by the daily reports of atrocities against defenceless minorities that have continued for three long years in Syria, without effective intervention by the EU or the world community, and that are now sweeping through Iraq as well. Tens of thousands have been killed or injured, and millions have been displaced from their ancestral homes and lands. Beheadings, crucifixions, massacres of men, women, and children of all ages, sexual assaults and enslavement, forced conversions, and destruction of places of worship are daily events. Worse, the perpetrators shamelessly publicize their gruesome deeds and use them as recruiting tools.
The primary perpetrators are the self-styled “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra), and similar extremist groups. They claim to be waging a religious war against “infidels” in the name of God, with a particular focus on Christians, other religious and ethnic minorities, and Shiites. But they also target Sunnis who reject their ideology and behaviour. Regretfully, it took ISIS exporting to Iraq these horrors they have been perpetrating in Syria for over three years to finally galvanize the international community to recognize the nature of this threat.
ISIS must be confronted in both Syria and Iraq if largely defenceless religious and ethnic minorities are to be saved from this brutal campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing. ISIS recognizes no national boundaries in this conflict. It will quickly retreat to inflict greater harm on Syrian minorities if it is driven from Iraq. It has made clear its plans to export its monstrous ideology and methodology worldwide, specifically to Europe, the United States, and countries throughout the MENA region.
With full knowledge of the enormous challenges of bringing peace to this region, we wish to give you our views on the religious aspects of the conflict and the positive and essential role that religious and ethnic communities and their advocates can play in supporting peace efforts by the EU, its members and other governments.
Specifically, we urge you to take the following steps:
1. Acknowledge the religious dimensions of the conflict and ensure that special attention and policy direction on these issues is part of an overall European strategy to bring peace to the region, including a plan to counter the ideology used by radical extremists, because religious principles should be a foundation for peace instead of conflict.
2. Use EU and EU member states’ governments diplomatic, humanitarian, refugee, freedom of religion or belief, and human rights resources to help establish a lasting peace, interfaith tolerance, and civil societies, which are essential to on-going stability and which military action alone cannot produce.
3. Enlist EU representatives of affected religious and ethnic groups and freedom of religion or belief and civil society advocates as participants and resources that can contribute ideas and work with religious and ethnic communities in the region and throughout the world to support these efforts.
4. Have EU member states provide immediate and targeted military assistance, humanitarian aid, safe havens, and refugee assistance to protect defenceless Syrian and Iraqi minorities.
5. Condition all EU and EU member states’ assistance to those fighting the extremist militants (governmental and non-governmental) on their agreement to: (a) protect and assist all religious and ethnic communities, particularly minorities, during the conflict; (b) support meaningful representation by minority groups in peace talks; and (c) allow minorities to obtain full political and civil rights in post-conflict government structures.
6. Isolate and identify all religious extremists and members of ISIS and similar groups, hold those responsible for crimes against humanity publicly accountable in regional tribunals to make clear that their actions will not be tolerated by the world community, and ensure that religious and faith-based groups have access to re-educate those indoctrinated by religious extremists to pursue peace and respect for all faiths and convictions.
7. Support the restoration of displaced minorities to their ancestral homes and lands and develop a program for compensating them for the enormous human and economic toll inflicted by the extremists, preferably funded by ISIS and similar groups, and for freeing hostages, slaves, trafficked women and children, and others from captivity by extremists, including those that may have been transported to other parts of the world, and provide expanded immigration opportunities for those too traumatized to remain in the region.
We are a truly multi-faith group of organizations and individuals, representing a high degree of diversity. We all agree on the importance of freedom of religion or belief for all faiths and none. We stand ready to assist in implementation of the points in this proposal, particularly in the formation of a multi-religious coalition to combat and refute the religious ideas perpetrated by ISIS and similar groups and promote freedom of religion or belief and tolerance.
AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY OF BELGIUM
ASSYRIAN AID SOCIETY OF AMERICA
ASSYRIAN AID SOCIETY OF IRAQ
ASSYRIAN GENOCIDE RESEARCH CENTER
ALL FAITH NETWORK – UK
AMERICAN EZIDI CENTER
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION
BRITISH BOARD OF HINDU SCHOLARS
CARE FOR EUROPE
CHURCH OF SCICENTOLOGY NATIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE
EASTBOURNE LIBERAL JEWISH CONGREGATION – UK
EUROPEAN COORDINATION FOR FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR FREEDOM OF BELIEF
EUROPEAN INTERRELIGIOUS FORUM FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
FAMILY FEDERATION FOR WORLD PEACE AND UNIFICATION
FORUM FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM EUROPE
FREEMUSLIM, CENTER FOR DE-RADICALIZATION AND EXTREMISM PREVENTION
GERARD NOODT FOUNDATION
HAMMURABI HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
HELSINKI COMMITTEE OF ARMENIA
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY
INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
IRAQI CHRISTIAN RELIEF COUNCIL
KURDISH HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
THE LOKAHI FOUNDATION – UK
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF HINDU TEMPLES – UK
NETHERLANDS SIKH OVERLEG PLATFORM
OUR LADY OF DELIVERANCE SYRIAC CATHOLIC DIOCESE
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX AUTONOMOUS CHURCH OF AMERICA
SHIA RIGHTS WATCH
SHIRAZI FOUNDATION – DC
SIKH SOCIETY NETHERLANDS
UNITED MACEDONIAN DIASPORA
UNIVERSAL PEACE FEDERATION IN THE NETHERLANDS
UNIVERSAL MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
WISBECH INTERFAITH FORUM – UK
WORLD AHLUL BAYT ISLAMIC LEAGUE – UK
York St John University
C Naseer Ahmad
Shia Rights Watch
Dr Ali Hasan Al-Shamari
Head of Committee on Health and Environment
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College
Bar ten Broek
United Religions Initiative Netherlands
Founder and Photographer
Picture Christians Project
Hierodeacon of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Vice President – Bridges NGO
Katharine C. Gorka
Council on Global Security
Prof. Gwen Griffith-Dickson
The Lokahi Foundation
Most Reverend Bishop
Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese
Lauren B. Homer
Homer International Law
Law and Liberty Trust
One World Medical Mission
Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Northland – A Church Distributed
Yezidi Human Rights Organization – International
Assyrian Genocide Research Center, Seyfo Center
Amjad Mahmood Khan
National Director of Public Affairs
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA
International Christian Concern
The Mitchell Firm
Red Eagle Enterprises
CARE for Europe
World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League
Gerard Noodt Foundation
Former Senior Advisor
Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs, US Department of State
Prof. Dr. Rainer Rothfuß
Arbeitsgruppe Humangeographie (HuGe)
Geographisches Institut – Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Indian Association of Belgium
Satish K Sharma
National Council of Hindu Temples
American Humanist Association
William Spence Spencer Executive Director Institute for International Law and Human Rights
Pagan Federation International
Founder and President
Iraqi Christian Relief Council
Hammurabi Human Rights Organization
All Faiths Network
William C. Walsh
Human Rights Attorney
Bisceglie and Walsh
Ali Akram Zainalbden
Turkmen Rescue Foundation