Persecution of Christians Overseas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:14 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 3:14 pm, 18th July 2019

It is an honour to take part in this important debate, and particularly to follow Lyn Brown. I am sure none of us have been anything but moved by the accounts we have heard.

I pay tribute to the Bishop of Truro for his excellent report. The persecution of Christians has been raised many times in this House since I have been elected, but never have we had such a comprehensive and well put together report, which really presents a picture of what is taking place in the world. I draw attention to the fact that, in the report, the Bishop included a quote from William Wilberforce, from one of his first speeches in this House against the slave trade. He said:

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

That is what the report does to this House—never again can we say that we do not know what is going on in our world today. It is therefore down to us to decide what we do with the information with which we have been provided.

Like many other Members, I wish to pay tribute to the many organisations that work tirelessly to raise the issue of the persecution of Christians. They even put their own lives at risk to work for the protection of those who are persecuted for their faith. I have had the pleasure of working with Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and I thank them for the amazing work they do.

The persecution of Christians is nothing new. Right from the very beginning, the Christian Church faced persecution, but I am sure that if we spoke to those first early Christians and told them that, more than 2,000 years later, the persecution of Christians for their faith would get worse, they would have struggled to comprehend how that could possibly be the case. None the less, that is the situation in which we find ourselves. As other Members have highlighted, the vast majority of people—some 80% of them—who are persecuted for their faith around the world are Christians. The persecution of Christians can be seen as a bellwether of the broader persecution of other faiths. Often, how a country behaves towards its Christians is a test of how other religious minorities will also be treated, which is why it is important that the Foreign Office, through this report from the Bishop of Truro, has chosen to focus on the persecution of Christians around the world.

It is often difficult for those with no faith to understand exactly what it is like for someone to find that their right, or their freedom, to worship, to practise and to express their faith is taken away. It is as if their identity has been taken away. To take the right of freedom of faith away from anyone is the ultimate violation of human rights.

We must never take for granted the freedom that we have in this country. Like Dr Cameron, who is no longer in her place, I have been horrified by some of the abuse that Members here have experienced over the past week or so simply because they followed their conscience and voted in a particular way in this House. We should all make it absolutely clear that there is no place for that in this country and that people should be free in this House to vote in the way that their conscience dictates. That is an ultimate freedom that we should defend and never lose sight of.