Persecution of Christians Overseas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:38 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Labour, Newport West 2:38 pm, 18th July 2019

I agree completely with the hon. Gentleman’s comments. The persecution of Christians across the world is attracting ever more focus and attention. This point is exemplified by the fact that the review was meant to conclude by Easter 2019, but as the scale of the task became clear, deadlines were pushed back to ensure there was enough time for the fullest of reports to be published.

As I have already said, the persecution of Christians is an increasing concern to me and to many of my constituents. I thank all those—Christian and non-Christian—who have written to me asking me to speak up for them in this debate. We must, as the Bishop notes, recognise that this is not a western problem, that many of the poorest in our world are Christians, and that they need our solidarity and support. It is easy to brush this off, but there are people living in fear, people living with often devastating consequences and people who need the British Government to stand up for them. This need to stand with them is why it is so important that the British Government get to grips with this.

Of course, it is not just us; we need to work with our partners in the Commonwealth of Nations, to raise these issues in the Security Council at the United Nations and, whatever happens with our relationship with the European Union, to work with Europe too. I know that the Foreign Secretary may not be in his place next week—who knows, he could be in No. 10—but I hope that, whoever steps into the role next week, he or she will maintain an interest in and focus on these really important issues.

I welcome the 22 recommendations in the Bishop’s report, particularly the focus on working together with our international and regional partners and allies. We must ensure that civil society plays its role in shaping views and protecting minorities. We have seen what happened with the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and with the Christians in the middle east and other places. The British Government can and should become a leader in defending freedom of expression and of faith too.

Like my constituents back home in Newport West, I was struck by a quote in the report of William Wilberforce saying in this very Chamber in 1791 that

“you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know”.

Our task in this Chamber and in our communities is to ensure that we do not look the other way, and that we do not walk by on the other side either.