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Government’s anti-persecution inquiry launched

UK government to review how it supports persecuted Christians around the world

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched an inquiry to investigate how the UK government defends freedom of religion around the world and assess the support it offers Christians who are persecuted because of their faith.

At yesterday’s launch event at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hunt said: We wanted to do this not just because freedom of worship is a fundamental human right, but also because freedom of worship is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies. 

Where freedom of worship is hampered or prevented, then usually that’s a sign of lots of other things going wrong, and we wanted to make sure that the UK is doing everything to champion the values that we all believe in.” 

The independent inquiry, which was announced by the Foreign Secretary on 26 December 2018, will be chaired by the Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, who has promised to ask tough questions” of the government. 

Bishop Phillip commented at the launch: There are a number of reasons why we have been blind to this issue. This is not about special pleading for Christians; rather, it’s about ensuring that Christians in the Global South have a fair share of the UK’s attention and concern. So, in that sense, it is actually an equality issue.” 

The inquiry, which is due to report to the government by Easter, will make practical recommendations for what the government can do to support those who are at risk because of their Christian faith better. 

In an article announcing the review in December, Hunt commented: All religious minorities must be protected, and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries Christians face the greatest risk. We should be willing to state that simple fact – and adjust our policies accordingly.” 

In Hunt’s remarks this week, he added: Eighty per cent of all the people who are suffering religious persecution are Christians.” He went on to say that he wanted to banish any hesitation to look into this issue without fear or favour because of our imperial history, because of the concerns that some people might have in linking the activities of missionaries in the 19th century to misguided imperialism. And all those concerns may have led to a hesitation to really look at this issue properly and I don’t want that to happen”. 

Three main areas will focus the inquiry’s attention. First, it will seek to map persecution in particular countries of concern, especially those in the Middle East and Asia. Second, it will provide an analysis of current support from the UK government. And, finally, it will offer recommendations for a cohesive and comprehensive policy response”. 

Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, commented on the launch of the review: It was encouraging to hear the Foreign Secretary address the issue of the persecuted church. For too long the suffering of Christians and the attendant erosion of religious freedom has been neglected. The launch of the government review is very much welcome, and we wish Jeremy Hunt and the Bishop of Truro well in their endeavours. Let’s hope that the review not only raises the profile of this critically important issue, but also results in concrete actions to secure religious freedom around the world.”

About the author

Danny joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2008 and has held a range of roles in the advocacy team. He currently looks after media relations and oversees advocacy programmes and projects including public leadership. Before working for the Evangelical Alliance, Danny, who has degrees in politics and political philosophy, worked in parliament for an MP. Danny is passionate about encouraging Christians to integrate their faith with all areas of their life, especially when it comes to helping them take on leadership outside the church. He frequently provides comment on current political issues, both in Evangelical Alliance publications and to the press.

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