Christian persecution: An update
Thornbury & Yate MP Luke Hall writes for the Voice
SOME 245 million Christians worldwide are currently facing persecution because of their faith. This problem is getting worse. The number of countries where Christians face religiously-motivated harassment rose from 128 in 2015 to 144 a year later, and globally as many as 80% of people who suffer persecution due to their faith are followers of Christianity.
Perhaps because of a misguided political correctness – or an instinctive reluctance to talk about religion – governments have not always grappled with this problem.
Earlier this year I wrote in a Voice column that the Bishop of Truro, Rev Philip Mounstephen, was conducting a review of the Foreign Office’s response to Christian persecution. This has now been published in full. The findings were horrifying, suggesting that in some parts of the world levels of persecution are “coming close to genocide”.
It has been heart-breaking to read about the bombing which took place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, in the Philippines earlier this year, and the reported 50-70,000 Christians currently detained in North Korean labour camps.
I subsequently wrote to all our local church groups and received phenomenal feedback from a huge number of local people. I have now met with officials at the Foreign Office and made it clear that our community wants to see action.
Bishop Mounstephen's report provided an overview of the UK government’s past response to religious persecution, and made a series of recommendations on possible improvements, such as ensuring that there are mechanisms to facilitate an immediate response to atrocity crimes, being prepared to impose sanctions against perpetrators and exploring how social media strategies can counter religious hate.
The UK can only become a world leader in promoting global religious tolerance if we truly understand the journey that we need to undertake to achieve it. I am now engaging with ministers, and sharing your feedback about what more can be done.
I am always keen to gain a greater understanding, so if you have any personal thoughts on what steps the Government ought to be taking to tackle Christian persecution, and have not yet had the chance to get in touch to share these, I would be delighted to hear your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We must tackle persecution across the world as an urgent priority, and I look forward to following positive developments in these efforts in the weeks and months ahead.