28 June 2017

Welsh Assembly members to speak out for Christians in Syria and Iraq

On Wednesday 5 July the charity Open Doors will be taking its Hope for the Middle East campaign to the National Assembly for Wales, in partnership with the Evangelical Alliance Wales. The event will help Assembly Members, Christian leaders and Muslim leaders to understand the challenges facing Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq and how to speak out for them.

Assembly Member Darren Millar, who is chairing the event, said, “Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East are fighting for their survival in the face of hardship and intense persecution. Many have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihood; and are deprived of basic human rights.

“By raising awareness of their plight and expressing our public support here in Wales we can give hope to these communities and help them to stand strong in the storm which surrounds them. That is why I, and a number of other Assembly Members, are calling on the UK Government to do all it can to ensure that the needs of Christians and other groups in the region are met and their future is secured.”

Jim Stewart, Public Affairs and Advocacy Officer for Evangelical Alliance Wales, said, “It’s crucial that churches in Wales support the Hope for the Middle East campaign. Not only is the Middle East the birthplace of Christianity but it is also a region where Christians have co-existed alongside others over two thousand years.”

Dr Matthew Rees, Open Doors’ Advocacy Policy Officer, who has done extensive research on faith engagement with the policy process at the National Assembly for Wales, said, “Whilst Foreign Policy and International Development are both the responsibility of the UK government, it is crucial that Members of the National Assembly for Wales are given the opportunity to speak out for Christians in the Middle East in order to demonstrate the people of Wales’ concern for this ancient community.

“Ever since the creation of the National Assembly for Wales, its members have bravely and consistently used their offices to speak out and to encourage the UK government to act on issues of concern both here in Wales and further afield too. The support of Assembly Members for the Hope for the Middle East campaign is an extremely constructive way of building on the Assembly’s 2010 and 2016 statements of opinion supporting the protection of persecuted Christians and other persecuted religious minorities around the world.”

So far a dozen Welsh Assembly Members have indicated that they plan to attend, along with representatives from the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church in Wales, and the Muslim Council of Wales, amongst others.

Those attending will hear from Eddie Lyle, President of Open Doors UK and Ireland, and Zoe Smith, Head of Advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland, both of whom have extensive insight into the Christian community in Syria and Iraq respectively. Jim Stewart from the Evangelical Alliance Wales will speak about the Hope for the Middle East campaign in the Welsh context.

The Hope for the Middle East campaign is a global, seven-year campaign mobilising people around the world to speak out to secure the future of Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq. As part of this, Open Doors is asking people to sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, which will be presented to the UN in December 2017. The petition calls for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, the key things Christians and church leaders from these nations have said they want for the future.

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Note to editors:

For more information call the Open Doors press office on 01993 777377, 01993 777346 or 07484 000 441, or email Tania at taniac@opendoorsuk.org or Beth at bethf@opendoorsuk.org

The launch of the Hope for the Middle East campaign in the National Assembly for Wales will take place on Wednesday 5 July 12:30-14:00 in the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay. Please let us know if you wish to attend.

Information on Open Doors - www.opendoorsuk.org

Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.

Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List - a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life - plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.

Iraq is number 2 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the severity of persecution faced by Christians in 50 countries. Syria is number 5. Open Doors is working through local partners and churches in Syria and Iraq to provide crisis relief, trauma training, helping to repair damaged homes, socio-economic development projects such as microloans for displaced people, biblical training for church leaders, and distributing Bibles and Christian literature.