Persecution of Christians Overseas

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 3:18 pm, 18th July 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for her very kind intervention.

There are some 80-plus churches in my constituency. I write to them and let them know what is going on, and this debate will go out to every one of those 80 churches of all faiths across my constituency next week when the girls in the office get the work done.

As the APPG noted in our published statement, all religious or belief communities throughout the world face violations of article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights, and protecting one group requires protecting all groups. I visited Pakistan last year, and it was poignant and emotional to see the position of Christians there with respect to education and qualifications, job opportunities, the right to worship and the right to convert. In fact, we are well aware of the issues across the whole middle east.

In Syria, 1.5 million Christians have left their country. There are only a quarter of a million Christians left in Iraq and fewer than 100,000 in Iran. In Colombia, Christian peasant farmers have been persecuted, tortured and murdered by Government forces and paramilitary groups. There are similar situations in Libya and in Nigeria, which Lyn Brown mentioned, where Boko Haram has carried out murders to a large degree. The Easter massacre in Sri Lanka is all too real in our lives. In eastern Ukraine, where Russia has influence, Baptist pastors have gone missing and churches have been destroyed. And then there is North Korea, where people cannot even mention the word “Christian” without being put in prison right away. There are also unbelievable abuses in China, as has already been mentioned today.

FORB is a hugely important issue. Indeed, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation published its analysis on the same day as the launch of the report. I would strongly encourage any future UK Government of any colour to take this issue very seriously. The Minister knows that I am fond of him and he always responds well to our questions, so I look forward to his response. I have a couple of questions for him today. Has he initiated any action under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 against FORB violators such as the generals in Burma? Have we ever needed reminding how much the Rohingya in Burma have been butchered, violated, murdered, raped, abused and burnt alive, or that their babies have been killed almost at birth? Those generals need to be made accountable. I look to the Minister to see what we can do in that regard. What discussions has he had with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence to ensure that they can also be part of the changes that are needed? I commend the charities—Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, Release International, the Barnabas Fund and Aid to the Church in Need—for all they have done.

I commend the Bishop of Truro for his efforts with this review. Will the Minister ask a Select Committee to assess the review to determine lessons learned and provide support and guidance for future reviewers? Recommendation 22 of the review states that in three years there should be a review to assess the Government’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the report. Will the Government also consider asking the Foreign Affairs Committee to carry that out?