LONDON: British church leaders accused David Cameron yesterday (Saturday) of "turning his back" on Christians facing genocide in Syria and Iraq by failing to offer them refuge in the UK.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, led criticism aimed at the Government for failing to provide a safe haven to Christians trying to flee the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
He will sign a petition that is being launched tomorrow (Monday) calling on the Government to "welcome Christian refugees and give them priority as asylum seekers".
It comes amid growing concern that the Government is ignoring their plight.
Last week, 42 Christian families were smuggled out of Syria to Beirut and then flown to Poland where they received safe haven. The operation was run by the Barnabas Fund, a charity aiding persecuted Christians, and the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, a Jewish-funded organisation founded by Lord Weidenfeld, the publisher.
More Christians will be evacuated to the Czech Republic and even as far away as Brazil in coming weeks but, according to the organisers, the British Government has so far refused requests to relocate Christians in the UK. Lord Carey said last night: "Syrian and Iraqi Christians are being butchered, tortured and enslaved.
"We need the British Government to work with charities like the Barnabas Fund and others to evacuate those who are in desperate fear of their lives."
Lord Weidenfeld, 95, who fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 with the help of British Quakers, said: "Europe must awake and the Conservative British Government should be leading from the front. Most European governments, especially those that are Christian explicitly or implicitly, are failing in their duty to look after their fellow Christians in their hour of need."
The petition, launched by the Barnabas Fund, calls on governments to work with Middle East countries and "recognise that Christians are especially targeted and uniquely in need of safe refuge".
Canon Andrew White, the former vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, said: "I really think it is horrendous that the British have not offered refuge to these Christian refugees."
The Most Rev Justin Welby, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, has expressed his concern over the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq and has "offered his full support for them being given protection in the UK and in other Western countries".