Refugees want to return to their homes with only three per cent wanting to go further away, according to a report by the Amar Foundation on ‘Religious Persecution: the driver for forced migration’.
In spite of these findings most international aid for refugees is concentrated on sustaining them in refugee camps. As a result the average life of a refugee in a camp is 11 years and the life of a squatter is 24.
Baroness Nicholson, Founder and Chairman of the Amar Foundation which supports health and education centres in Iraq, some close to Mosul, told a meeting in the House of Lords on November 17, that more resources should be focused on getting refugees back to their homes than getting them to Europe and on giving structural assistance to help countries rebuild.
Launching the Foundation’s report she said that the world thinks that religion does not exist in reality and that religious persecution is something new so it takes a long time to respond. With respect to the Yazidis in Iraq, the world’s media have adopted some of the rhetoric of Isis and present the Yasidis as a possible devil worshipping cult.
Speakers highlighted the currrent ideology that believes it right to persecute others which is often supported by big powers. Groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in East Africa, terrorists in Afghanistan and so-called Islamic State should not be treated as separate phenomenon but connected as terrorists who “use faith as a fascist force to destroy others.”
Political elites have an agenda and can use religion to inspire their populations to force others out. But if the role of religion is ignored, the capacity of religions to help people survive, to mediate and bring healing and rehabilitation is missed. It was noted that religion is a factor in displacing communities. Religions are often seen as a threat because they do not accept monolithic authorities in the state, whether theocratic or secular.
Speakers at the event highlighted the fact that international law fails to protect children who are internally displaced as it does not count them as refugees. So thousands of children who are not registered disappear into trafficking. In Islam, fathers can remove children as young as seven ( boys) and nine (girls) from their mothers. The report calls for “ a mechanism for registration of internally displaced children as soon as they reach official camps to preserve their further abuse through rape, trafficking and forced marriage ( when under 18).”
The report calls for education for children in camps to be commensurate with what they would otherwise be receiving. Without education, they will themselves become vulnerable to radicalisation.
There should also be “protection, support and training for the many thousands of sexually abused (Yasidi) women and girls (who) once abused are prime candidates to be abused again,” according to the report.
John Newton of Aid to the Church in Need, which sponsoring Red Wednesday on November 23 as a Day of Solidarity against religious persecution, argued that few people from minority religious groups risk going to the camps where Muslims form the majority. Most are going to Erbil where the Chaldaen Church has been helping them with no assistance from UN agencies.