The persecution of Christians is so extreme it amounts to genocide in some parts of the world, a new report has revealed.
The research, commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, shows that millions of Christians are routinely being forced from their homes, kidnapped, imprisoned and even killed.
The report, compiled by the Bishop of Truro, Rt Revd Mounstephen, says the “overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians”.
In North Africa and the Middle East, “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers”.
In Egypt alone, 99 Christians were killed by extremist groups in 2017, whilst others continue to be targeted.
In Algeria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the persecution of Christians has “reached an alarming stage” with some regimes placing strict limitations on public acts of worship.
The report adds: “The level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide”.
Asleep on watch
Hunt said: “I think we have shied away from talking about Christian persecution because we are a Christian country and we have a colonial past”.
“But we have to recognise – and that’s what the bishop’s report points out very starkly – that Christians are the most persecuted religious group”.
“What we have forgotten in this atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.
“In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%”, he said: “We’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.”
Hunt also said that he would use Britain’s influence to defend Christians where they were under attack for their faith.
Bishop Mounstephen said: “Through my previous experience… I was aware of the terrible reality of persecution. But to be honest in preparing this report, I’ve been truly shocked by the severity, scale and scope of the problem.”
Mounstephen’s final report on global persecution, due to be released in the summer, will set out how the Foreign Office can do more to alleviate global persecution.