Persecution of Christians Overseas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State 3:53 pm, 18th July 2019

Thank you for the offer. There are not many saints in this House, but the hon. Gentleman is about as close as anyone gets to being one.

On Monday 8 July the Foreign Secretary welcomed the publication of the Bishop of Truro’s independent review of the persecution of Christians worldwide, and I would like now to set out in more detail the response of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The world is an increasingly challenging place for people of faith, and in some parts of the world for those of no faith. In the past two years, appalling atrocities, as we have heard today, have been committed against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and the horrific shootings in two Christchurch mosques shocked us all, but there are so many other stories of suffering that gain far less news coverage, and the statistics tell us, as we have heard again today, that Christians suffer more persecution than any other religious group in the world, yet we hear far less about this than one would expect. We are too reticent about discussing Christian persecution, and we must overcome this mindset; the evidence justifies a much louder voice.

As the Bishop of Truro states in the introduction to his review, the majority of Christians are found in the global south and among the global poor, and the review takes case studies from China, India, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, where persecution stems from state oppression, terrorism and ethnic or nationalist conflict. As Christianity is perhaps the most truly global of religions, the persecution of Christians often indicates wider violations of the rights of all minority groups, and the report notes the large body of evidence for this. In some places the persecution of Christians is closely linked with poverty and social exclusion, and elsewhere it is compounded by discrimination against women, so increasing the attention given to Christian persecution does not dull but sharpen our focus on human rights for all.