Members of the Lords, including the Chief Rabbi and bishops, debated the situation of Christians in the Middle East in the House of Lords on Friday 9 December.
The debate was tabled and led by the Archbishop of Canterbury who opened with an introduction into the 'pressing' issue affecting Christians in the Middle East. He said: 'The position of Christians in the region is more vulnerable than it has been for centuries'.
Lord Sacks (Crossbench) Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, made his contribution before leaving the Chamber to observe Shabbat. He mentioned that the fear felt by Christians has grown in the Middle East since the Arab spring. 'The fate of Christians in the Middle East today is the litmus test of the Arab spring. Freedom is indivisible, and those who deny it to others will never gain it for themselves,' he said.
Other speakers that commented during the debate included:
- Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (Liberal Democrat), Vice President, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, who spoke of the branches of Christianity in Israel and the importance of minority rights.
- Lord Carey of Clifton (Crossbench) Chairman, World Faiths Development Dialogue, offered practical suggestions. He said: 'I suggest that some formal process might be considered whereby our Foreign Office and embassies also present an annual assessment of the degree to which the right to freedom of religious belief and practice has been respected and enhanced in the Middle East. Indeed, some kind of assessment of the impact of religion in general on their work might be very helpful.'
- Baroness Morris of Bolton (Conservative), Chairman, Conservative Middle East Council and Member, International Advisory Board, Amman Arab University, mentioned the strength of the dwindling Christian community in the Middle East, saying: 'The strengths of the Christian community, which has so enriched the Middle East over the centuries through its contribution to science, art, culture, the economy and politics, are probably needed now more than ever.'
Lord Howell of Guildford (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government and praised the speakers: 'I was wondering how on earth how I was supposed to encompass 2,000 years of history and all those excellent speeches in 20 minutes,' he said.
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