PA

Hunt says UK are doing 'absolutely everything we can' to help Asia Bibi

Thu 27 Dec 2018
By Cara Bentley

After launching his review into Christian persecution, the foreign secretary has said the UK is playing a constructive role in keeping her safe.

The Cabinet member, Jeremy Hunt, launched a review on Boxing Day that would look into how much Christians are being persecuted in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

There have been attacks on the Egyptian Coptic church, Christians in Pakistan and there have been killings of church members in Nigeria, all this year.

Hunt said he wanted to make sure the UK was doing everything it can and using the 'full weight' of the foreign office.

The review will be presided over by Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro.

When asked whether the foreign secretary agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement that Christians were on the verge of extinction in the Middle East and that the UK should take more refugees, Hunt replied: "He makes this very striking observation that a few years back the population in the Middle East was about 20% Christian, that's declined to about 5% Christian.

"We obviously look at individual refugees on a case-by-case basis but what we want to understand is whether we are using the weight of the foreign office network to support the plight of minorities in general and make sure Christians are one of those minorities we are looking at and doing everything we can."

The Conservative minister was asked about Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who was almost sentenced to death this autumn, accused of blasphemy against the Islamic prophet Muhammad but acquitted in October.

Her safety has been raised in Prime Minister's Questions and directly to Lord Ahmad, the PM's special envoy on freedom of religion and belief. In all questioning, the government has stopped short of offering her asylum in the UK.

Hunt responded: "Of course, we follow the case of Asia Bibi very, very closely - that's been an ongoing concern and we will continue do to everything we can to play a constructive role to make sure she is kept safe.

"We are talking with our partners and we want to make sure that she is kept safe and a lot of these discussion are confidential but suffice to say the UK is doing absolutely everything we can to help her."

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