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Persecution of Christians

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham 3:38 pm, 6th February 2020

I agree.

Iraq, another country where we have given blood to help, is No. 15. In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; now there are 160,000. Throughout the middle east in the past 100 years, huge numbers of Christians have left. They used to make up 25% of the population, and now the figure is 5%. Is that not appalling?

Egypt is No. 16, and 16% of its population are Christians, yet the Government treat those people as though they were the enemy of the state. If a church is wrecked by some riot, no one can get it rebuilt, because it is a matter of national security. Christians are not considered to be “right on” for Egypt.

It is a matter of deep regret to me, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Kazakhstan, that the country I like so much is No. 35. About 4.8 million of the population of Kazakhstan—about 25%—are Christians. The majority of them are Russian Orthodox and tend to stay in their own community, and they do not get too much hassle, but if you happen to come from a Muslim background and you are a Christian, you have got a problem. How come such a great country, which is going to have a superb future in this century, passed a law in 2011 that stopped religious freedom? How wrong is that?

I am shocked—truly shocked—that, during our lives, so much persecution of Christians is taking place. I absolutely endorse the Bishop of Truro’s recommendation that we, using our presidency of the United Nations Security Council in 2021—and, as I said earlier, it should be remembered that we have a permanent seat there—should persuade the United Nations as a whole to sign an agreement not to persecute Christians or anyone else. It will be difficult, but it is something that our Foreign Office should define as a top priority.

I will stop soon, because I think I have said enough, but I remain horrified that people who are peace-loving—all they want to do is worship privately—are so misused in our world, and it is to do with us. My mother, who went to Belsen in 1945 as an officer in the Special Operations Executive, never told me that she had been there until just before she died. When I asked, “How the heck, mum, did you not tell me that you had been in Belsen in 1945 with the British Expeditionary Force as an SOE agent?”—a spy, effectively—she said, “It is because, Robert, I am ashamed.” I said, “Mum, what do you mean, ashamed?” She said, “I am ashamed because the holocaust happened when I was alive.” Now I understand what she meant. We have got to stop the persecution of any religion, but this debate is about the persecution of Christians. It has got to stop. It is happening in our lifetime, and we must do everything we can to sort it out.