The persecution of Christians, or any other religious group, is entirely unacceptable. Everyone should be able to practice and profess their religious faith free from persecution.
According to the latest annual World Watch list, produced by Christian charity Open Doors, the persecution of Christians is getting more severe than ever, with an estimated 250 million Christians around the world now facing high or extreme levels of persecution. Some 4,761 Christians are reported to have been killed in 2020 for faith related reasons. These statistics are deeply concerning. I know that Open Doors will be launching a new report in January 2022.
As I am sure you are aware, the Bishop of Truro undertook a review of Government support for persecuted Christians overseas in early 2019. His report found that Christians are the most persecuted group, with 80% of religious persecution globally against Christians. I believe genuine action on the persecution of Christians is long overdue. Numerous options are available to the Government to show it is committed to protecting religious minorities, and many of them were outlined in the Bishop of Truro’s report. The Government has said that it accepts, and will implement, all of the Bishop of Truro’s recommendations.
As we mark the 40th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the elimination of religious intolerance, I believe it is a timely moment to review the Government’s progress on implementing the Bishop of Truro’s recommendations.
I think the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and belief, should be at the heart of UK foreign policy. We must do everything in our power to ensure that people of faith across the world have the freedom to pursue their beliefs without fear of harassment or victimisation. This should include using all diplomatic means available, including bilateral relations and multilateral forums such as the UN, to ensure that international law is adhered to where there are humanitarian issues and breaches of human rights.