Peers highlight global persecution of Christians

Christians are suffering persecution on a global scale, the House of Lords has heard.

In a debate secured by Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee, Peers urged the Government to take practical steps to support Christians across the world who experience hostility for their faith.

According to Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, to which Peers frequently referred, over 365 million believers faced persecution and 4,998 were killed for their faith last year.


Introducing the debate, which took place immediately prior to Easter, Lady Foster observed: “I can think of no better time than Holy Week to bring this issue to the attention of the House.

“The Bible tells us that this was the time when Jesus suffered greatly, both physically and mentally, knowing the death he would face on Good Friday. It therefore seems appropriate to focus on the great suffering that continues for Christians across the world today.”

While Christians living in the UK may feel as if their faith “is not respected” or “belittled”, she reflected, the suffering of “our brothers and sisters in Christ” outlined by Open Doors is “frankly shocking”.

Lady Foster added: “To make things worse, global persecution of Christians is underreported and therefore is not highlighted and responded to in an adequate way.”

First-hand accounts

Patron of The Christian Institute Baroness Cox detailed the persecution of Christians in Nigeria at the hands of radical Islamists.

She said: “More believers are killed for their faith each year in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world. Men and boys are often specifically targeted, to undermine the growth of Christian families in the future. Women and girls face abduction and sexual violence”.

She recounted how one mother of four told her: “I found my husband had been killed. I cannot go back to my village. It has been burnt. We are barely managing”. Another victim said: “militia burnt the orphanage and destroyed the crops”.

Lady Cox explained: “Christian believers are often stripped of their livelihoods and driven from their homes to survive as displaced people, leaving a trail of grief and trauma.”

‘Alarming trend’

Lord Alton commented: “We talk about persecution as if it ended with Nero and the lions in the Colosseum, but it is one of the most shocking untold stories of our time.” He warned that “the tide of visceral hatred continues to rise”.

Agreeing with Lord Alton, Lord Curry of Kirkharle also recognised that the “freedom of Christians to worship and express their faith is being more and more constrained, and many are at risk of persecution and death”.

He drew attention to an “alarming trend” in India, where churches have been attacked and Christians killed. He said: “Eleven out of India’s 28 states have now introduced anti-conversion legislation, and 35 pastors have been imprisoned”.

Admitting that he had not been previously aware of the scale of persecution of Christians, the Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, also raised the plight of Christian communities in Myanmar.

Govt response

Responding on behalf of the Government, Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “Across the world, the abuse and violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief is deeply concerning.”

He added: “Sometimes it is the unsaid that needs to be said, and Christian persecution is reflective of exactly what needs to be said.”

Lord Ahmad concluded: “Freedom of religion or belief must remain on the international agenda, and we continue to work with our international partners to forge a united approach to protecting and promoting not only freedom of religion but all human rights.”

Also see:

Beyond Utopia: Harrowing documentary on North Korea should drive us to pray

Human rights group: ‘Media ignoring genocide levels of Christian persecution’

Violence in India kills scores of Christians and turns churches to ashes

China attempts to ‘eliminate visible presence of Christianity’

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