The UK government should be prepared to impose sanctions against countries that persecute Christians, a report commissioned by the Foreign Office has recommended.
It should also adopt a definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution, similar to those applied to Islamophobia and antisemitism, the report says. British diplomats and other Foreign Office staff, both in the UK and abroad, should have mandatory training in religious literacy in order to equip them to understand the scale and significance of the issue.
The report, by Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, was commissioned by the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to examine the extent and nature of Christian persecution and assess the UK government’s response.
Hunt said he would enact all of the recommendations if he became prime minister and said he agreed with the report’s conclusion that Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world.
Hunt said the UK must take a firmer stance on the persecution of Christians around the world. “The sense of misguided political correctness that has stopped us standing up for Christians overseas must end,” he said. “At home we all benefit from living in a tolerant, diverse society and we should not be afraid of promoting those values abroad. It is a sad fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in modern times. I am determined to show that we are on their side.”
An estimated one-third of the world’s population suffers from religious persecution in some form, with 80% of them being Christians, it is claimed.
Open Doors, which monitors Christian persecution around the world, has estimated that on average each month 345 Christians are killed for faith-related issues.
The report said: “Evidence suggests that acts of violence and other intimidation against Christians are becoming more widespread.” In parts of the Middle East and Africa, the vast scale of the violence and its perpetrators’ declared intent to eradicate the Christian community had led to several declarations that Christians were suffering a genocide, it said.
Christianity was concentrated in the global south and was perceived therefore as “primarily a phenomenon of the global poor”, it said. “Despite the impression those in the west might sometimes have to the contrary, the Christian faith is not primarily an expression of white western privilege.”
Christian persecution had “multiple drivers and as such it deserves special attention. More specifically it is certainly not limited to Islamic majority contexts. So this review is not a stalking horse for the Islamophobic far right, nor does it give the Islamophobic right a stick to beat Islam with.”
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood