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Questions on Christian persecution taken in the House of Commons

Thu 17 Jan 2019
By Cara Bentley

The MP who is politicians' link between the church and parliament has been asked about Christians in Pakistan and the foreign office's intentions to end persecution worldwide.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman MP, started by reminding the House of Commons on Thursday that Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt invited the Bishop of Truro to conduct an independent review into the persecution of Christians around the world, from which the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen will produce a report.

Jeremy Lefroy MP pointed out that the numbers attending the launch of Open Doors' latest World Watch List on Wednesday showed high levels of interest among politicians in the persecution of Christians.

He asked the MP for Meriden to ensure that the Bishop of Truro will tell members of the House about the findings of his independent review.

Spelman replied: "I'm delighted to give my honourable friend that assurance...40 countries out of the 50 are places where Christians experience very high or extreme levels of persecution and I shall go from this place, Mr. Speaker, to a meeting at the foreign office, with the foreign secretary and the Bishop and I will make that request directly to him."

Sir Desmond Swayne MP inquired about the willingness of the Department for International Development to intervene in persecution.

The Church Commissioner for MPs explained that there was an openness to increasing religious literacy from the foreign office: "We were given assurance by the minister that this would be impressed on officials."

Replying to a question from Bob Blackman MP about Christians in Pakistan, Spelman mentioned Asia Bibi: "I'm sure, like me, he would have heard the case of Asia Bibi raised to the Prime Minister yesterday in this house but I think it is very important that not only we look out for a solution for her and her family that assures her protection but remember that what we do on behalf of Christians in other countries can impact others around the world in the same way. So, persecution of Christians in Pakistan is high on our agenda."

Other questions were raised by the MPs Kevin Foster, Henry Smith and Dianna Johnson, who asked what the foreign secretary intends to do about the problem.

The Church Commissioner said Jeremy Hunt has acted by bringing in the Bishop of Truro to do the review and that churches overseas will assess their interaction with British or foreign diplomatic missions and the protection of Christians.

She added that they will hear from staff from the civil service who are approached by churches seeking help.

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