In this interview, Caroline Hull, the North West manager for Aid to the Church in Need, speaks with Hussein Al-alak of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign, on the reasons why he supports One Night for Religious Freedom in Manchester and the work of ACN.
1. Please give us a bit of info about yourself (first name, occupation, background, etc)
My name is Hussein Al-alak and I am a member of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign UK, which is based in the city of Manchester and we run the on-line news service Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra).
The Iraq Solidarity Campaign has a really positive relationship with Manchester’s 18,000 strong Iraqi community, and our membership reflects the rich diversity of Iraqi society, along with positively incorporating British members, who share a common interest or involvement with Britain-Iraq relations.
We first became aware of Aid to the Church in Need through their active and vibrant presence on social media and were really excited by their campaigning and fundraising activities across the United Kingdom, to assist the Iraqi Christians, who have been greatly affected by the intolerance shown towards them, by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
We were also thrilled to see, that in the North West of England, Aid to the Church in Need was also taking its message of Iraq solidarity into homes, churches, mosques and schools by engaging in a non-sectarian approach, with the wider British and Iraqi community, in major northern cities like Manchester and Liverpool.
2. Why are you interested in the issues surrounding Religious Freedom in our world today?
For the overwhelming majority of Iraqi people, supporting the religious freedom of people has become an almost daily topic of conversation for families since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
As many people will be aware, the Iraqi people have experienced unprecedented levels of sectarianism through the political mismanagement of previous governments and through whose policies and militia groups, were pushing through political agendas, where the sole purpose was to divide neighbourhoods along ethnic and religious lines.
With the enormity of Iraqi history being our legacy, it is the view of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign that religion and freedom is something everyone can enjoy and find appreciation in, as people having the right to be mutually free in their religious practice has shown itself inside of Iraq and the wider Middle East through the historic diversity of the regions monuments, mosaics, architecture, literature, music and cities.
3. Have you supported Aid to the Church in Need before? How might you be interested in helping in the future?
For an organisation like the Iraq Solidarity Campaign, supporting Aid to the Church in Need’s work for Iraqi Christians is something that we view to be a natural step in helping the Iraqi people overcome the personal and collective trauma, displacement and bereavements which have been caused as a result of war and subsequent conflicts.
Aid to the Church in Need have explained and demonstrated their commitment to the people of Iraq, through their support with providing shelters, food, medical care and education to displaced Iraqi families.
ACN have also been one of the most pro-active voices in the United Kingdom in highlighting the needs that exist, but also on calling for wider and more long term solidarity to support the Iraqi people in their own grass roots efforts for building a stronger and stable society.
As Aid to the Church in Need is a recognised and registered charity, whose work in Iraq is available to witness, through their website, Facebook and Twitter, I hope the wider British-Iraqi community will embrace the aid efforts of the Church and will look at how they, as an integral part of British society, can play a more active and united role for those currently displaced by the Islamic State.
4. What is your message to those Iraqis who are currently suffering persecution both as displaced people within Iraq and as refugees elsewhere?
From the perspective of being British and Iraqi, who have families and friends directly caught up in the horrendous situation inside of Iraq, the Iraq Solidarity Campaign is unable to give adequate words of comfort to those suffering persecution and who are now displaced.
We would like to remind people in the West, that in the Middle East, there is a story of the stranger knocking at the door of the family home, and all the stranger is asking for is a glass of water. It is said that by giving something as simple as a glass of water to that stranger, is in-itself a test by God, as the stranger making the request, is actually an angel in disguise.
Hussein: Thank you so much for your input. Your thoughts on religious freedom and its meaning to Iraqis are deeply moving. ACN is grateful for your support of our work to help displaced and refugee Iraqis; while many of these people are Christians, ACN recognises that all people deserve the right to live out their religious convictions with dignity and without fear.
This is what ONE NIGHT for Religious Freedom is all about. If you would like to learn more about ONE NIGHT for Religious Freedom (Holy Name Church, Oxford Road, Manchester, Saturday 18 April from 8:00pm), visit our webpage.