Faith leaders join call for Britain to take in more Syrian refugees

(Photo: REUTERS / Umit Bektas)A Kurdish refugee woman from the Syrian town of Kobani walk along tents at a refugee camp in the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province January 31, 2015. The United States and its allies carried out 27 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria since early Friday, the Combined Joint Task Force leading the operation reported on Saturday. Ten of the 17 strikes in Iraq hit near the oil city of Kirkuk, it said. In Syria, Islamic State targets near the border town of Kobani were attacked in eight of the 10 raids, the statement said

Senior British faith leaders are calling on UK Prime Minister David Cameron to increase the number of Syrian refugees resettled in the UK in response to "one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our time."

Christians from different traditions, Jewish and Muslim leaders joined civil society groups in the call on Prime Minister to ensure more is done to help Syrian refugees find safety in Britain, the UK religious think tank ekklesia reported.

The letter coincided with the first anniversary on January 29 of the UK government's announcement of a special resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable refugees from the Syrian conflict.

A year on, Home Office figures show that only 90 people have been offered asylum here, ekklesia reported.

Nearly four years into the conflict, 10 million people have been forced to leave their homes, nearly 4 million of whom have fled the country.

The vast majority are living in precarious circumstances in Syria's neighboring countries, and many are struggling to survive in freezing temperatures.

The faith leaders say that the conflict in Syria is one of the "greatest humanitarian catastrophes of our time" and that neighboring countries are at the point of collapse from the sheer numbers of refugees they are hosting.

In the letter they say, "Church and development agencies are calling on rich countries around the world to resettle five per cent of Syria's refugees by the end of this year and a further five per cent by the end of 2016.

"The UK government has agreed to resettle only several hundred people over three years."

They noted that excluding Germany, the rest of the European Union (EU) has pledged to take in a paltry 0.17 per cent of refugees from the main host countries.

Canada for its part said in early January that it would open its doors to 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales' Conference Department of International Affairs, joined the Anglican Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, Head of the Jewish Reform Movement Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and Co-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum, to express his support for a joint call from CAFOD (the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales), Amnesty International, the Refugee Council, JCore and Islamic Relief for the UK to do more to help Syria's refugees find safety here.

Copyright © 2015 Ecumenical News