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Rights of persecuted Christians championed in Westminster

Jeremy Hunt gets behind persecuted church at Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List launch

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt urged Christians and ministers to make a conscious effort to help believers who are persecuted for their faith at the launch of Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List.

Yesterday, at the Houses of Parliament, the anti-persecution charity presented to parliamentarians and delegates its latest annual research report, which lists the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. The report shows that Asia, following a sharp rise in persecution over the last five years, is now the place where followers of Jesus are most at risk, with the first five countries in the ranking being North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan. 

Speaking at the well-attended event, Jeremy Hunt, who has been serving as secretary of state and foreign and commonwealth affairs since July last year, welcomed Open Doors’ report and thanked the charity for shining a spotlight on the grave challenges endured by Christians around the world.

He also called on Christians and ministers to do all they can to fight for freedom of religion and belief in countries where this right is non-existent or violently undermined. He said: I have two requests. First, next time you go to church, hold in your thoughts and prayers persecuted Christians. I go to church and the biggest stress is trying to get my kids to come along. The challenges faced by Christians around the world are far greater than this.

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Second, please do not just hold in your prayers the plights of these individuals; remember, there are things we can do! We’re a global power and we shouldn’t underestimate our strength. We have links with the Commonwealth, Europe and the US – we can use the invisible chain that binds our values. So, let’s think about what we can do and how to use our connections, never doubting that a small group of committed people can change the world.”

Jeremy Hunt’s appeal comes just weeks after he ordered an independent, global review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK. It’s thought that the inquiry, which will be led by the Bishop of Truro and is expected to be published around Easter, is a response to accusations that the government is failing to offer sufficient support for the 215 million+ persecuted Christians around the world, many of whom are in countries with which Britain has ties.

Open Doors CEO Henrietta Blyth welcomed the review, as the charity’s 2019 World Watch List unearthed that within Christian communities, believers are also being targeted on the basis of their gender, age, disability, class and ethnicity – with the most vulnerable within these groups sustaining the most severe torture. 

She said at yesterday’s event, during which attendees had the opportunity to hear from two Christians who work with persecuted Christians: We are delighted that Jeremy Hunt has initiated an independent review to look at UK support for persecuted Christians around the world. 

We urge the Foreign Office to seize the opportunities presented by the review, to ensure that UK aid and influence is being used to maximum effect to protect the rights of Christians and other minority religious groups. Now is the time to reverse the exponential escalation of violence and oppression which today’s research results demonstrate.” 

About the author

Naomi joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2018 as editorial content manager. Positions with publishers and within the marketing and communications faculty of a higher education institution, plus stints as a reporter, have enabled the media and cultural studies graduate, who has an NCTJ diploma in newspaper journalism, to hone the necessary skills and qualities to serve members well.

See more from Naomi Osinnowo

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