ISIS: open letter of 75 NGOs to the EU Council

On 4th December 2014, NGOs and leaders, including the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB), signed a letter sent to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and all members of this institution, urging them to take effective action to protect religious minorities facing ISIS.

Here is the letter and the signatories:

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

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.



Respectfully,

ORGANIZATIONS 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 SCIENTOLOGY 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
SOTERIA INTERNATIONAL
UNITED MACEDONIAN DIASPORA
UNIVERSAL PEACE FEDERATION IN THE NETHERLANDS
UNIVERSAL MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
WISBECH INTERFAITH FORUM – UK
WORLD AHLUL BAYT ISLAMIC LEAGUE - UK

Individuals



Fr. Æthelwine
York St John UniversityC

Naseer Ahmad

Mustafa Akhwand
Executive Director
Shia Rights Watch

Dr Ali Hasan Al-Shamari
Iraq-ANajaf Council
Head of Committee on Health and Environment

Stephen Baskerville
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College

Bar ten Broek
Secretary United Religions Initiative Netherlands


Jeff Gardner

Founder and Photographer

Picture Christians Project


Petar Grammatikov
Hierodeacon of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Vice President - Bridges NGO

Katharine C. Gorka
President

Council on Global Security

Prof. Gwen Griffith-Dickson

Director

The Lokahi Foundation

Yousif Habash

Most Reverend Bishop
Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese

Lauren B. Homer

Homer International Law

Law and Liberty Trust

Martha Hudson
One World Medical Mission

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor
Northland - A Church Distributed

Mirza Ismail

Chairman

Yezidi Human Rights Organization – International

James Issakhani

President

Assyrian Genocide Research Center, Seyfo Center

Amjad Mahmood Khan

National Director of Public Affairs

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA

Jeff King

President

International Christian Concern

Greg Mitchell

President

The Mitchell Firm

Scott Morgan

President

Red Eagle Enterprises

Paul Moynan

Director 

CARE for Europe


Sayyed-Mohammad Musawi
Chairman
World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League

Hans Noot
President

Gerard Noodt Foundation

Max Primorac
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

Eric Roux

Chairman

EIFRF


J.Sekhri,

President

Indian Association of Belgium

Satish K Sharma
General Secretary

National Council of Hindu Temples

Roy Speckhardt

Executive Director

American Humanist Association

William Spence Spencer
Executive Director
Institute for International Law and Human Rights

Morgana Sythove
Chairwoman
Pagan Federation International


Juliana Taimoorazy
Founder and President

Iraqi Christian Relief Council

Pascale Warda

President

Hammurabi Human Rights Organization

Martin Weightman

Director

All Faith Network


William C. Walsh
Human Rights Attorney

Bisceglie and Walsh

Ali Akram Zainalbden

Turkmen Rescue Foundation