Alastair Grant/PA Wire

Religious freedom charities have mixed reactions to the Foreign Office's review into persecuted Christians

Tue 09 Jul 2019
By Ruth Sax

Christian religious freedom charities have responded to the recommendations of the persecution report by Bishop Philip Mounstephen.

The report, published on Monday and carried out by the Bishop of Truro, was commissioned by the Foreign Secretary, who announced at the launch of the report that the world should use "Christophobia" to describe anti-Christian discrimination and said the UK's efforts to help persecuted Christians around the world has not always "matched the scale of the problem."

Jeremy Hunt also said he would fully support and enact all of the recommendations if he becomes Prime Minister.

 

 

The report points to evidence that 80 percent of all religiously motivated persecution crimes globally are targeted at Christians.

Reaction to the report from campaign groups and charities supporting persecuted Christians has been mixed.

Open Doors, which monitors Christian persecution around the world, has estimated that on average, each month 345 Christians are killed for faith related issues.

Doctor Matthew Rees, the head of advocacy at Open Doors welcomed the report's recommendations. He told Premier: "We would see this as the beginning of an opportunity to really work out how we're going to tackle this issue.

"As religion and the persecution of Christian moves from being a side-lined, more niche issue that only some are interested in, to becoming a mainstream issue that's mainstream throughout the UK government's action, then we will start to see a wider conversation. If you have a wider conversation, you have more voices, more people thinking creatively about how we can actually tackle the issues.

"So I hope that this is going to be the start of that and actually that this isn't just the end. However, what we have to do is ensure that the government do not just let this fall by the wayside. Now that the review has been handed over."

Contributing to the report and gathering evidence from the front lines in northern Iraq was the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

The organisation's CEO, Mike Simpson told Premier he does not think the report goes far enough to deal with the issue: "I think it's a missed opportunity. To some extent, we welcome some of the aspects of the report some of the recommendations, but it could have gone a lot further.

"I think the main thing I would say is that the Christians of the Middle East are suffering something of an existential crisis.

"In Iraq where we work over a million Christians have left in the last 15/16 years. That is 80 percent. Nowhere else in the world, I do not think is there such a large percentage of one faith group leaving their home country and that's not really been addressed by the report."

Christian campaign group, Release International's spokesperson, Andrew Boyd, told Premier the report provides an opportunity to bring about change:

"This report has called for a clear recognition that Christians are being persecuted and it has called for clear definitions of what that persecution looks like. It is also a diplomatic initiative here to effect a change and that is what the heart of this is.

"Behind all of this is a line which says (in the report) that the UK aspires to be the leading nation in the world today in pursuing the rights of Christians to be able to live and worship in peace in their nations.

"That's a significant directional shift and given diplomatic teeth to actually make countries come to heel."

The Right Reverend, Bishop Philip Mounstephen said: "Addressing this issue with the seriousness it deserves represents a step change for democratic governments.

"My hope is that in adopting my recommendations the Foreign Office will be able to bring its considerable experience and expertise to bear in helping some of the planet's most vulnerable people."

The report also outlines the seriousness of the challenge, and makes recommendations for how the Foreign Office can better address the issue.

Recommendations include, considering imposing sanctions on perpetrators of serious human rights abuses against religious minorities, including Christians.

All Foreign Office staff, at home and abroad, should have mandatory training on religious literacy, subject to resources.

 

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