The Most Rev Justin Welby has held private talks with David Cameron amid growing concern that the plight of Christian refugees in Syria is being overlooked
The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned David Cameron that his Government’s refugee policy is discriminating against Christians facing oppression in Syria.
The Most Rev Justin Welby is understood to have met the prime minister last week amid growing concerns that Christians in Syria will be largely excluded from the 20,000 refugees due to come to the UK over the next five years.
Archbishop Welby raised the issue with Mr Cameron at a private meeting last week, according to a well placed source, over concerns that Christians in Syria will not be given the opportunity to come to the UK.
The Government, in line with European Union policy, is committed to taking in refugees from UN camps in Syria and neighbouring countries. It cannot discriminate in favour of any one religious group.
But the Archbishop has raised concerns that Christians have avoided refugee camps because of fears of persecution from rogue Islamist groups operating inside refugee camps.
In a speech in the House of Lords last Monday, Archbishop Welby said that “within the camps there is significant intimidation and radicalisation, and many particularly of the Christian population who have been forced to flee are unable to be in the camps.”
He went on: “ What is the Government’s policy of reaching out to those who are not actually in the camps?”
He then raised the issue with Mr Cameron in a private meeting. A source said: “Justin Welby spoke to David Cameron about this. he raised his concerns.”
The Archbishop’s intervention follows concern raised by his predecessor Lord Carey, who wrote in the Telegraph of his concern over the plight of Christians.
Lord Carey wrote: “The frustration for those of us who have been calling for compassion for Syrian victims for many months is that the Christian community is yet again left at the bottom of the heap.
“Mr Cameron’s policy inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State.
“Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them. They are seeking refuge in private homes, church buildings and with neighbours and family.”
A coalition of faith groups from 14 organisations has issued a statement accusing the US and UK governments of ignoring the plight of Christians and other ethnic minority groups by effectively failing to discriminate positively in their favour.
The group is backing attempts to evacuate Christians from Syria through Operation Safe Havens. The operation, led by the Christian charity the Barnabas Fund, has so far succeeded in smuggling 42 Christian families out of Damascus to Poland via Beirut.
The groups wants a much greater effort to be made by western governments to help them airlift more Christians out of Syria in coming weeks and months.
The coalition of groups said; “Many governments, including the US and UK, have proved unwilling to make provision for endangered religious minorities to be evacuated, despite private individuals, charities and churches offering to cover the costs of the resettlement.
“Government plans, including those of the UK, to accept refugees from UN camps in Syria will not address the problem, because Christians, and other minorities do not dare to live in those camps.”
Rev Godfrey Yogarajah, director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance and which signed up to faith group coalition, said: “Minority religious groups, including Christians, find themselves between an anvil and a hammer.
“They are under immediate threat to their lives where they are. The refugee camps are not seen as places of safety.”
A spokesman for Archbishop Welby confirmed he had met with Mr Cameron but declined to reveal details of a private meeting.