Persecution of Christians | April 2019

I have received many emails concerning the persecution of Christians.
The current situation of Christians around the world is an issue of concern and I greatly sympathise with the view that, as a Christian nation, the UK should play a role internationally to ensure Christians are guaranteed the freedom to practise their religion without fear of being persecuted.
A 2019 report published by the Open Doors charity stated that 80% of people who suffer religious persecution for their religious belief are Christians, with a total of around 245 million Christians suffering high levels of persecution in 73 countries.
It should be noted that some of the worst areas where Christians are persecuted are located in the Middle East; with Christian populations in Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan and Somalia falling from 20% to around 5%. Yet in many of those countries, the UK contributes large amounts of aid and therefore wields a considerable amount of influence. As a result, the UK is in a strong position to reduce the number of Christians who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing discrimination and persecution.
The Government has recognised that there has been an element of hesitation in the past in tackling the persecution of Christians, but has accepted that now is the time for the UK to uphold freedom of religious belief globally. Being a major player in international affairs, the UK holds a privileged position which enables it to uphold religious freedom. The Government has already begun to tackle the issue of Christian persecution, with the Department for International Development having recently allocated £12 million specifically to promote freedom of religious belief. The Foreign Secretary has also stated that it is absolutely essential that countries which receive British aid make progress in guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for their citizens. It should be remembered that many of the worst conflicts in the world have occurred because people of different religions have clashed; so promoting harmony between religions is one of the best long-term strategies of promoting peace.
In December 2018, the Foreign Secretary announced that he would commission the Bishop of Truro to conduct a report for the UK Government regarding the persecution of Christians. At present, an interim report regarding the issue has been published, with the final report to be delivered by the end of June 2019. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has announced that it will be taking into consideration the recommendations made in the final report and will act accordingly following its publication.
The Government is committed to tackling the issue of Christian persecution, with the Open Doors report that you highlighted in your email having already been discussed extensively in Parliament. The Government has made clear to countries which receive British aid and who trade with the UK that they are expected to ensure that freedom of religion is upheld in their countries. Equally, the Government has commissioned its own report regarding the persecution of Christians, which will be published by the end of June 2019; with the FCO committed to listening and acting upon its conclusions.
April 2019

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