Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt says the UK Government should be prepared to take action against global Christian persecution.
In December, Hunt commissioned the Bishop of Truro – Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen – to review the Foreign Office’s support for persecuted Christians.
The report, released on Monday, calls on the Government to consider sanctioning countries which persecute Christians and to introduce mandatory religious literacy training for Foreign Office staff.
The Bishop’s interim report, released in May, revealed that the persecution of Christians is so extreme it amounts to genocide in some parts of the world.
The final report confirms this, revealing that 80 per cent of all religiously motivated attacks are against Christians.
It read: “Evidence suggests that acts of violence and other intimidation against Christians are becoming more widespread.”
The report also recommends that all Foreign Office staff should receive “religious literacy” training, to ensure they understand the role of religious persecution in conflict.
It said there was a “strong feeling” that “for too long those who arguably suffer the greatest persecution in terms of sheer numbers across the globe, have not been given the same attention as other minorities by the UK government”.
There was a “perceived imbalance” in the number of Christians who were being granted asylum by the Foreign Office, compared to other faith groups.
It also revealed the “disturbing” reality that Christian asylum seekers experience persecution in the UK.
‘Most vulnerable people’
The Bishop of Truro advised the Government to be prepared to impose sanctions on regimes which are found to have committed ‘serious human rights abuses’ against religious minorities.
He hoped the UK Government would adopt his recommendations, and that his advice to the Foreign Office would help “some of the planet’s most vulnerable people.”
Earlier this year the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief said that Government officials had a “lack of understanding of religion” and a “profound misunderstanding” of the Bible.
In 2016, it was revealed that one Iranian asylum seeker’s application was also rejected after an interview in which he was asked what colour the cover of the Bible is.
‘Good first step’
Christian charity Open Doors estimates that, on average, 345 Christians are killed for their faith every month.
Henrietta Blyth, of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: “The UK Government must act now. It must focus attention on the countries where persecution is most severe and where the situation is rapidly deteriorating.”
“This review is a good first step to addressing this. For it to be effective it must deliver real, tangible and lasting change for those suffering persecution.”
Speaking at the launch of the report, Hunt said: “As the Christian doctrine of original sin reminds us, the capacity for wickedness is inherent in the human condition.
“We’ll never be able to extirpate anti-Christian bigotry but nor must we shrug and walk on the other side of the road.”
“At home we all benefit from living in a tolerant, diverse society and we should not be afraid of promoting those values abroad.”
He added: “It is a sad fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in modern times. I am determined to show that we are on their side.”