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Say we catch the barbarous "Jihadi John" or "John the Beatle" or "John the Jailer" or whatever he's called. And say we then gather the evidence against him and bring a charge of murder. He'll be entitled to legal aid (which will cost), prosecuted (which will cost), and, if found guilty, imprisoned 'for life' (which will cost). He might then be freed in 15 or 20 years or so to wreak revenge on the liberal democratic state he so loathes and despises - a few bombs, a bit of torture, the odd beheading. If we're lucky, we might catch him again. If we're luckier, the police might shoot him dead in the process. How exactly should we punish the Islamists found amongst us?
Some BNP types favour rounding up all the Muslims and deporting them en masse, as if such 'cleansing' is any better than the Islamist vision of the purified Caliphate. Others favour an enforced assimilation; the suspension of their liberties and the suppression of their democratic rights. Nigel Farage apparently wants to revoke their citizenship, which is relatively straightforward for those a-jihading in Syria or Iraq. We could, in theory, prevent their return. But whither do we send (and by what right do we impose upon another state) the Islamists who possess a British passport and EU citizenship? Certainly, we may agree they are not 'British' in the sense of respecting our culture or sharing our values. But the act of revoking citizenship results in stateless exile, perhaps wandering through the deserts of Syria or Iraq where they already feel quite at home. That is a woeful retribution.
A multi-faith consortium has written to the Telegraph:
SIR – What we are witnessing in northern Iraq today is a tragedy of historic proportions in which thousands of innocent people are at immediate risk of death for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief, a right set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is being denied in the most gross and systemic way possible through the attempted extermination of religious minorities. There is no justification for the violation of this inalienable human right.That's six Christians, two Jews , three Muslims, a Hindu, a Sikh and a Zoroastrian.
Such violations as are currently taking place are crimes against humanity that must be both stopped and punished. The culture of impunity within which these dehumanising atrocities have been committed needs to be challenged most vigorously. Given that Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Government must now work towards a United Nations Security Council Resolution that refers this matter to the ICC for investigation and, where necessary, prosecution. The international community must send a clear signal to those who are committing such atrocities that they will be held accountable for their actions.
These violations are, however, sadly part of a wider global pattern of increased societal hostility to, and government restrictions on, freedom of religion or belief. Governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations need to recognise this wider crisis and commit the necessary time, energy and resources to ensure greater respect for this fundamental freedom and forestall further such tragedies.
The Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth
Bishop of Coventry, Church of England’s Lead Bishop on Foreign Affairs
Dayan (Judge) Ivan Binstock
Court of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Ayatollah Dr Sayed Fazel Milani
Imam al-Khoei Islamic Centre, London
Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
Commissioner Clive Adams
Territorial Commander, Salvation Army
His Grace Bishop Angaelos
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
The Rt Rev Richard Atkinson
Bishop of Bedford
Malcolm M Deboo
President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe
His Eminence Gregorios
Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Senior Rabbi, The Movement for Reform Judaism
The Rt Revd Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
Chairman, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza
Principal Imam, Leicester Central Mosque
Dr Shuja Shafi
Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Vice-Chairman, All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief
The thing is, the United Nations has been so utterly deficient in the defence of religious liberty that it is highly unlikely to prove adequate in the administration of justice. When the United Nations Human Rights Council is already captive to those who despise human rights, and when it agitates for religion (ie Islam) to be protected from "defamation", it beggars belief that a body of international judges would ever agree that those who plot the extermination of Christians and other religious minorities are committing crimes against humanity. Are they not Allah's warriors and Mohammed's freedom fighters?
Are the values of the Islamic State so very different from those of Saudi Arabia or Iran? Persecution? Imprisonment without trial? Forced conversion? Beheadings? Saudia Arabia and Iran might not crucify their Christians, but the international community turns a very convenient blind eye to their appalling treatment of religious minorities.
These faith leaders are doubtless well intentioned, and a resolution of the United Nations Security Council might indeed trigger an investigation by the International Criminal Court. But to what effect? The signatories say these violations are crimes which must be punished. How exactly?
It is estimated that somewhere between 800 and 2000 British Muslims are fighting with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Surely the "culture of impunity" within the British state has contributed to this. Our shared commitment to multiculturalism; the diminution of our Judæo-Christian notions of honour, justice and freedom; and our embrace of moral relativity and a positivist conception of nature have fundamentally challenged our understanding of national identity. We cannot "send a clear signal of intent" to those who violate human rights or commit atrocities because we can no longer agree what we mean by "clear", "violation" or "atrocity".
Surely the Jihadis that went out from amongst us ought to be tried in British courts? And surely, if found guilty, their life must be forfeit? For the commandment of God against killing is an expression of His will for the protection and affirmation of the lives of those who dwell in peace; not an absolutist expression of their inviolable and intrinsic worth.
The preservation of life may, paradoxically, occasionally require its termination. The problem, then, is that by taking up the sword against Jihadists we potentially create a legion of Islamist martyrs, who, by their submission to the will of Allah and sacrifice in the name of Mohammed, may inspire another wave of Christian-crucifying zealots.
Peacemaking is the fundamental task of Christian ethics, but the Islamic State presents us with a wholly abnormal situation of national emergency. We either confront and kill, or surrender our hard-won liberty, our cherished freedoms and our national independence. We cannot wait for the United Nations to deliberate and proclaim their resolution any more than we can depend on them to guard our freedoms of religion and belief. We are talking here about the physical, intellectual and spiritual lives of the British people, and their relationship to God. We cannot abdicate our national responsibility to supranational deficiency.
Archbishop Cranmer @ August 22, 2014
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As long as Obama spouts the fallacy that the Islamic State “speaks for no religion”, we will never kill the root
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It would appear that the barbaric Islamist who decapitated US journalist James Foley was a dude named John, probably from East London, who took a brief sojourn in Syria with his mates Mustafa and Aqueel in order to wage a bit of moderate Jihad against their smoking and drinking Ummah. But, you know Jihad: once bitten, never shy, never afraid, never wavering, and never averse to a bit of summary decapitation in the name of Mohammed for the glory of Allah, most gracious, most beneficient, most merciful.
It transpires that John had been captivated by the inspirational words of Winston Churchill, whom he encountered in the World War Two thematic module of his History GCSE: "We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in Syria and Iraq, we shall fight on buses and the underground, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength with shoe-bombs in the air, we shall defend our Caliphate, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the deserts, we shall fight on the airports, we shall fight in the cities and in the streets, we shall fight in the mountains; we shall never surrender."
There couldn't be a clearer geo-political fons et origo to explain John's theo-political praxis.
But if not Churchill, then who? Tony Blair? George W Bush? Adolf Hitler? Who galvanised John to pack a suitcase, drive to Heathrow, fly out to Damascus and wage war against the infidel, heretic and apostate for the establishment of the Islamic State? What cult controlled him? What creed captivated his mind?
President Obama says the Islamic State "speaks for no religion", because "no faith teaches people to massacre innocents". In this, he takes Baroness Warsi's line that Wahhabi-Salafist Muslims are not Muslims at all, and the religion they follow bears no resemblance to any expression of Islam. The President adds: "No just God would stand for what (the Islamic State) did yesterday, and what they do every single day."
He appears not to grasp the Islamist worldview, which is as theological as it is political; as historic as it is present. Allah is not merely a "just God": he is perfect justice, and his prophet did no wrong. The people beheaded, tortured or massacred are not "innocents": they are corrupted by idolatry; tainted by the blood on the hands of Western warmongers; and damned by perversions of liberal democracy and moral relativity. We will never eradicate this cancer unless and until our politicians and religious leaders can bring themselves to acknowledge that the Islamist inspiration is a virulent quranic doctrine of God which is based on a particular reading of Hadith literature and a singular understanding of the Sunnah. It may be offensive to our Western sensibilities to say so, but we are so steeped in mushy multicultural GCSE notions of ill-taught RE that we have ceased to have any ability to discern the spirits, determine right from wrong, or distinguish between the forces of good and the legions of evil.
Centuries of scholarship bear witness to the mutability and multiplicity of the Islamic faith, which is as diverse and disparate as the myriad of Christian denominations. The problem is the ascendancy and dominance of a particular interpretation of Islam – the Wahhabi-Salfist strain – which seeks to agitate, occupy, subjugate, inculcate and deny liberty and justice to all who do not adhere to its notions of societal perfection. The Islamic State adheres to this "pure and unadulterated" version of Islam. It is by no means believed by the world's 1.9 billion Muslims, but it is practised by a disparate 10 million or so around the world, and that's only a conservative estimate. Their political vision is acutely theological:
(They) see life as being divided between the world of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the land of conflict or war (dar al-harb). Through jihad, they wish to extend the Muslim world so that all of humankind can live under its umbrella. They harken back to the Great Caliphate, when the Muslim world extended from Spain (then called Andalusia), across North Africa and the Middle East, down the west coast of Africa, and across the Caspian region to India and the Philippines. At its height in the 1200s, the Caliphate was a highly sophisticated civilization, responsible for many inventions and innovations in mathematics and science".And so the vision of an Islamic Empire is revived. Its factions include Al-Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front, not to mention Fatah al-Islam, Jund al-Sham, the Syria Free Army and the Abdullah Azzam Brigade. And let's throw in Jund al-Aqsa, the Syrian Martyrs' Brigade, Idlib Martyrs' Brigade, Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, Ahfad al-Rasul Brigade, Army of Mujahedeen, Ghuraba al-Sham, Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood. And that's just in one region: their platoons are trans-national and the fissures never-ending. They may lack a unifying commander-in-chief, but there is broad consensus on the religio-political strategy, which stems from a perception of Islamic appeasement, moral compromise and subjugation to the ‘Great Satan’. They cohere around the application of Jihad to defend the faith primarily against the evils of Zionism, Judaism, Christianity, secularism, and a plethora of corrupt manifestations of Islam. They consider it an unacceptable humiliation that the "Christian West" may demand concessions, impose conditions and dictate the terms of debate to the "Muslim world".
All of this is undoubtedly political, but it is also acutely theological.
The Muslims of the Islamic State may not speak for all Muslims, but they plainly call themselves Muslims and profess to speak for Islam. They may not be President Obama's type of Muslim or practise Tony Blair's preferred brand of Islam. But to reduce their religious beliefs to the status of a non-religion is to subjugate their devout worldview to the very notions of Western-Christian arrogance and imperialism they wage Jihad to defeat. And in such political ignorance and religious denial lie the seeds of our own decline, defeat and destruction.
Archbishop Cranmer @ August 21, 2014
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The translated words of Amel Nona, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, now exiled in Erbil (via Rorate Caeli):
"Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future," says Amel Nona, 47, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul exiled in Erbil. The message is unequivocal: the only way to end the Christian exodus from the places that witnessed its origins in the pre-Islamic age is to respond to violence with violence, to force with force. Nona is a wounded, pain-stricken man, but not resigned. "I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive." He is very glad to meet Western media. "Please, try to understand us," he exclaims. "Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal," Archbishop Amel Nona continues, "but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."From an original interview by Lorenzo Cremonesi, Corriere della Sera (10th August 2014):
I giovani chiedono armi. Gli anziani approvano. «Le nostre sofferenze di oggi sono il preludio di quelle che subirete anche voi europei e cristiani occidentali nel prossimo futuro», dice il 47enne Amel Nona, l’arcivescovo caldeo di Mosul fuggito ad Erbil. Il messaggio è inequivocabile: l’unico modo per fermare l’esodo cristiano dai luoghi che ne videro le origini in epoca pre-islamica è rispondere alla violenza con la violenza, alla forza con la forza. Nona è un uomo ferito, addolorato, ma non rassegnato. «Ho perso la mia diocesi. Il luogo fisico del mio apostolato è stato occupato dai radicali islamici che ci vogliono convertiti o morti. Ma la mia comunità è ancora viva». E’ ben contento di incontrare la stampa occidentale. «Per favore, cercate di capirci - esclama -. I vostri principi liberali e democratici qui non valgono nulla. Occorre che ripensiate alla nostra realtà in Medio Oriente perché state accogliendo nei vostri Paesi un numero sempre crescente di musulmani. Anche voi siete a rischio. Dovete prendere decisioni forti e coraggiose, a costo di contraddire i vostri principi. Voi pensate che gli uomini sono tutti uguali - continua l’arcivescovo Amel Nona - Ma non è vero. L’Islam non dice che gli uomini sono tutti uguali. I vostri valori non sono i loro valori. Se non lo capite in tempo, diventerete vittime del nemico che avete accolto in casa vostra».The Italian version is linked and quoted in full because there might be some understandable doubt about the authenticity of this rather candid interview. Of course, those doubts may abide regardless, not least because of the variable inconsistencies of the interviewer. But, taken at face value, we are presented here with a number of irrefutable primary truths, any one of which could be extracted to create an alarming leader:
"Our sufferings are the prelude of all Europeans and Western Christians"All of these are pertinent; any of them would be an admissible truth, though not all an advisable headline. And none of these phrases is likely to be uttered by any Western church leader, simply because there is so little understanding in the liberal and democratic Christian West of the Islamic Hydra that manifests itself so variably across what we call the Arab-Muslim world. Even the ubiquity of this geo-ethnic-religious term is indicative of the paucity of theological knowledge and religious observation, for not all Muslims are Arab; not all Arabs subscribe to the same doctrine of Allah; and not all Muslims accord with any notion of inhabiting the same world as those they view as heretics and apostates.
"I lost my diocese to Islamic radicals"
"Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here"
"You are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims - you are in danger"
"You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal"
"Your values are not their values"
"You will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home"
But, to most of us in the liberal and democratic West, this is Islam and they are all Muslims. We can quibble over the meaning of "true" Islam and cavil about what it is to be a "real" Muslim. And we do. And in the liberal and democratic West we are free to do so - at least for now. We are repeatedly told by our schoolteachers and hear in abundance from our political leaders of our common values, our shared truths, and our established assertions of tolerance and respect in an inescapable framework of equality.
But what do these values mean to the Islamic State which, some aver, is no Islamic State at all, but a perversion of Islam and a corruption of the very definition of 'state'? "Your values are not their values," says the exiled Archbishop of Mosul, as he warns of the danger of welcoming "an ever growing number of Muslims". Are his Muslims the same as our Muslims? Is he being "racist" or "Islamophobic"? The media are silent, and the politicians mute. Demographically, it is already too late. With one eye permanently fixed on the electoral cycle and the other on Baroness Warsi, the "Muslim vote" must be heeded.
And yet this "Muslim vote" is as nebulous and incoherent as the "Muslim world". Some of them vote Conservative, one or two incline toward Ukip, and many more are Liberal Democrats. But most are tribal Labour supporters - simply because their parents and grandparents found succour in their community compassion and generous notions of welfare. No one has bothered to research the disparate voting intentions of British Sunni, Shia, Sufi or Ahmadiyya Muslims. But it gets worse: they are the "ethnic minority vote", as though a plethora of Islamic denominations can be lumped in with Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Black Caribbean, Black African or Black 'Other'..
Funny, isn't it, how we so easily conflate "ethnic minority" with "religious minority". And funny, too, that so few of us classify Jews in the same socio-political category.
The historic schism between Sunni and Shia Islam is becoming a global conflict. Israel and the Jews are the only common enemy. Palestine is all that unites them. Or so the narrative goes. But Sunni and Shia are themselves riven with religious fractures and political fissures, such that they routinely denounce one another as heretics like the pretender popes of old, fiddling with their mutual excommunications while the world burns.
We have before us the present foreign-policy obsessions - Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan seem to come and go. We hear mutterings of Yemen and Qatar. Saudi Arabia rarely hits the radar, unless they're flogging women or hanging gays. We flit about from one to the other trying to negotiate 'peace' while selling them missiles, bombs and bullets. Incredibly, we are about to ally ourselves with Shia Iran in order to defeat the greater evil of the Sunni Islamic State. This is profoundly misguided. Our enemies enemy is still our enemy.
The West must heed the stark warning of Archbishop Amel Nona, and do so before it is too late. Mosul has fallen: his warning is that Toulouse, Brussels or Liege might be next. For now, the battleground is fixed in the Middle East. But Jihadi-Salfist theatres of war recognise no state borders, and they have no time at all for democracy, diplomacy, or "moderate" notions of Islam which is not "proper" or "true" Islam. These fanatics find our governments weak and compliant; our liberal and democratic principles quite conducive to their political objectives; our Christianity favourably disposed to a multi-faith ecumenical love-in.
This unpalatable truth may irritate our democratic politicians and cause a few ripples among our liberal bishops. But Archbishop Amel Nona has seen the evil, and calls it so. There can be no fellowship of darkness with light.
Archbishop Cranmer @ August 19, 2014
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It hasn't been for the want of trying. Numerous blog posts have been written, emails and DMs exchanged, and meeting with senior ministers held. This blog has been at the forefront. But still the Government refused to see what just about every Christian in the country had eyes to see: that David Cameron said nothing and did even less while tens of thousands of Iraq's Christians were summarily slaughtered or driven from their ancient homelands. But the moment the Yazidis were stranded up Mt Sinjar, the Prime Minister was convening his Cobra emergency committee and announcing to the world that Britain would play a leading role in their rescue and relief. We even sent the SAS.
What is this incoherent foreign policy? Who determines this hierarchy of suffering?
It is as though the Government couldn't give a damn about Iraqi Christians. But the Yazidis are a syncretic Zoroastrian tribe. They are mysterious and cool, and there is kudos to be had in saving the exotic minority. The Christians are knowable and familiar. And therein lies the contempt.
So today's headlines are wholly justified: "Church launches bitter attack on PM's 'incoherent' Middle East policy'. The story has been picked up by the BBC, ITV and Sky, and is slowly reverberating around the world. Here is the incisive letter dispatched to the Prime Minister by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev'd Nick Baines. Please note that it was sent in the full knowledge and approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Dear Prime Minister,"Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?" the bishop asks. Of course, we all know the answer to this. Most of the mainstream media segued straight from Gaza to Mt Sinjar; from bombed-out Palestinians to the massacre of Yazidis. They said little, if anything, about Mosul, and one doubts they have ever heard of Qaraqosh. The Government tends to react to the obsessive minority passions of the BBC, Guardian and Jon Snow, all of whom manifest a pathological anti-Christian bias, born of theological ignorance and spiritual indifference.
Iraq and the Islamic State
I am conscious of the speed at which events are moving in Iraq and Syria, and write recognising the complexity and interconnectedness of the challenges faced by the international community in responding to the crises in Syria and Iraq.
However, in common with many bishops and other correspondents here in the UK, I remain very concerned about the Government’s response to several issues. I write with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury to put these questions to you.
1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach. Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK Government’s response to both the humanitarian situation and what IS is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect. The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity.
2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?
3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK Government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy to addressing the challenges of Iraq)?
4. Following on from this, I note that the Bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM Government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: “The Lord Bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from ISIS controlled areas of Northern Iraq.” I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.
5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the Government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the Foreign Secretary's Human Rights Advisory Panel continue under the new Foreign Secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom – which would demonstrate the Government’s serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?
I look forward to your considered response to these pressing questions.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Baines
The Bishop of Leeds
But to say that the Government's policy in Iraq is incoherent, ill-thought-through and determined by "the loudest media voice at any particular time" is brave, coming from a bishop. No doubt some will raise a highly-polished mirror, point the finger and cry "hypocrite!", reminding us that the Church is mired in its own inconsistencies, confusions and contradictions. And perhaps there is in the Church's own muddles and murkiness a temporal reflection at the heart of the State. But this is not a time for divisive diatribes of denunciation. Christians are dying in their thousands. even now, in the relative safety of their Kurdish camps, where they sweat in their fevers and faint from thirst and malnutrition.
And David Cameron stands accused by a senior bishop of the Church of England of abandoning them. And that accusation is justified, because the Yazidis have consistently taken political precedence. The Government has created a hierarchy of suffering in which 30,000 Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar trumps 100,000 Christians fleeing the murderous Jihadists who invaded Mosul and Qaraqosh. For Cameron and his Government, the Christians have indeed "fallen from consciousness".
There has been no response to the bishops' plea that we open our borders to asylum seekers. France and Germany are offering sanctuary, but the Bishops of Leeds, Manchester and Worcester haven't even received an acknowledgement of their letter. Bishop Nick says this is "something that causes me and colleagues some concern". Frankly, it causes His Grace consternation, disillusionment and dismay. Christians are being crucified in Iraq, and the Prime Minister can't even be bothered to convene a committee.
At least Baroness Warsi managed to do that.
Archbishop Cranmer @ August 16, 2014