February 6, 2006
Christian and Muslim leaders have issued a joint statement calling for justice for Iraqis who are being detained in Iraq without trial, and the release of four Christian peacemakers in Iraq.
The open letter has been signed by 45 Christian and Muslim religious leaders. It expresses concern for the four Christian Peacemaker Team hostages - Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney - who have been held in Iraq since 26 November 2005 but also for the thousands of Iraqis also held without charge or trial since the war with Iraq began almost three years ago.
Veteran peace campaigner and vice-president of Pax Christi, Bruce Kent, today presented the letter at a press conference.
It states; "The practice of detention without charge, sometimes exacerbated by torture and abuse, cannot be allowed to continue as it heightens the level of fear and feeds into a terrible cycle of violence. Just as we are concerned for our brothers with Christian Peacemaker Teams we are also concerned for Iraqi detainees and for their families.
"We long for true peace to be restored to the people of Iraq and we ask our government to do all it can to secure this peace."
The statement which is signed by Anglican bishops and other religious leaders from across the Christian denominations, as well as leading Muslims, calls for clear condemnation of detention without charge and the abuse of prisoners.
It also urges accountability on the part of all UK military personnel for their treatment of prisoners and of the Iraqi people. It suggests work with the Iraqi authorities to "ensure that the highest United Nations human rights standards of treatment and due process for detainees are met."
Mr Anas Altikriti, former President of the Muslim Association of Britain who visited Baghdad in December on behalf of the hostages said that it was humbling to be put in a position of trying to secure the release of the men.
He spoke of his hope since the last video of the Christian peacemakers which was released in January and set no fixed deadline. He said that if the abductors were sincere they would see that the best thing to do for Iraq was to release the hostages.
He also spoke of the achievements in Muslim-Christian co-operation over the release of the men which has seen a coming together of a unity of faith and a "sharing of the essence of humanity."
The Rev John Rackley, Past President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland and a personal friend of Norman Kember, one of the kidnapped Christian peacemakers said that his captors had nothing to fear from his friend.
He went to Iraq with open hands to see for himself what was happening to the people of Iraq and now his hands are in chains.
The letter is part of an ongoing campaign by Christian and Muslims to free the hostages.
Every Wednesday for an hour in Trafalgar Square, faith groups stand in silent vigil to remember the hostages.
The full text of the letter and signatories is as follows:
6th February 2006
The release of a new video showing Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney, working in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams, is cause for relief as well as anxiety. Relief that the long silence with no news of their well-being has been broken, is mixed with apprehension at the continued threat to their lives.
Since their abduction on 26th November 2005 religious leaders and religious groups throughout the world have spoken in their support - acknowledging that they are men of nonviolence and urging that they may be released to continue their work for peace and human rights on behalf of the people of Iraq. At this urgent moment in time we wish to reaffirm this support and invite those who hold them to return them to their families.
At the same time we know that thousands of Iraqis have been held without charge and detained since the war in Iraq began almost three years ago. The practice of detention without charge, sometimes exacerbated by torture and abuse, cannot be allowed to continue as it heightens the level of fear and feeds into a terrible cycle of violence. Just as we are concerned for our brothers with Christian Peacemaker Teams we are also concerned for Iraqi detainees and for their families.
We long for true peace to be restored to the people of Iraq and we ask our government to do all it can to secure this peace. This must include:
- clear condemnation of detention without charge and the abuse of prisoners
- accountability on the part of all UK military personnel for their treatment of prisoners and of the Iraqi people
- work with the Iraqi authorities to ensure that the highest United Nations human rights standards of treatment and due process for detainees are met
With people of faith throughout the world we pray that we may be united and steadfast in our work for peace for the people of Iraq
" Dr David Goodbourn, General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
" Rev David J Kerr, President of CTBI, former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
" Revd David Coffey, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
" Rt Revd Malcolm McMahon, National President of Pax Christi and Bishop of RC Diocese of Nottingham.
" Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett, Anglican Diocese of Beverley
" Rt Revd Peter Price, Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells
" Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, co-founder of Peace People
" Rt Revd Peter Broadbent, Anglican Bishop of Willesden
" Very Rev Nicholas Frayling, The Dean, Chichester Cathedral
" Dr M Aziz Nour, Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches
" Dr Daud Abdullah, Assistant Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
" Rt Revd Edwin Regan, RC Bishop of Wrexham Diocese
" Anas Altikriti, former President, Muslim Association of Britain
" Revd John Rackley, Past-President of Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, Manvers Street Baptist Church, Bath
" Most Rev Bruce Cameron, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
" Rt Revd James Bell, Anglican Bishop of Knaresborough
" Revd Peter Brain, Moderator, North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church
" David G Deeks, General Secretary, British Methodist Church
" Revd. Robert Gardiner, Harrow Baptist Church ,
" John Humphreys, Moderator, Synod of Scotland, United Reformed Church
" Revd Dr Keith Clements, former General Secretary, Conference of European
" Rt. Revd. Derek Rawcliffe (former Bishop of Glasgow)
" Rt Rev John McOwat, Bishop of the Moravian Church
" Rt. Revd. Colin Scott, Hon. Asst. Bishop of Leicester
" Bruce Kent, Vice-President of Pax Christi
" Stewart Hemsley, Chair, Pax Christi
" Revd Alan Betteridge, President, Baptist Peace
" Pat Took, London Baptist Association Regional Team Leader Minister
" Pamala McDougall on behalf of Quakers - Religious Society of Friends, Scotland
" Gillian Collins, Secretary Baptist Peace Fellowship
" Chris Cole, Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation England
" Christoph Hellmich (Senior), German-speaking Synod of Lutheran, Reformed and United Congregations in Great Britain.
" Hashir Faruqi, Chief Editor, Impact International on Islamic Affairs
" Mary Roe, Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.
" The Reverend Baroness Richardson of Calow
" Very Rev Antony Lester OCarm, Prior Provincial, British Province of Carmelites
" Revd Dewi Hughes, The General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Independent Churches
" Most Revd Samuel Ade Abidoye Baba Aladura and Chairman The Cherubim and Seraphim Movement Church Worldwide
" Sr Mary Hinde, Provincial, on behalf of the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
" Revd Gethin Abraham-Williams General Secretary, Churches Together in Wales: CYTUN and (Mrs) Denise Abraham-Williams.
" Revd Beth Torkington, Chair, Western District Moravian Church
" Norman Wood, Monifieth, Scotland
" Rev Jill Clancy
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia