Britain orders global review of persecution of Christians

Britain orders global review of persecution of Christians

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the United Kingdom.

The review, to be led by the Anglican Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, will look at government efforts to help some of the 215 million Christians who faced discrimination and violence last year, according to the Foreign Office.

Officials say violence against Christians is rising dramatically, with an average of 250 killed every month.

Mr Hunt said the UK “must do more”.

“Britain has long championed international religious freedom,” he said. “So often, the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority.”

The Foreign Office said the review would “consider some tough questions and offer ambitious policy recommendations”.

Bishop Mounstephen is expected to report back by Easter. The review will have three aims:

– To map the persecution of Christians in ‘key countries’ in the Middle East, Africa and Asia;

– To provide an analysis of current UK government support;

– To offer recommendations for a cohesive and comprehensive policy response.

The intervention comes after an outcry over the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who faced death threats after being acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan.

Ms Bibi spent eight years on death row until her conviction was reversed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlier this year.

Large crowds took to the streets to protest against the court’s decision, as her husband pleaded for asylum from the UK, US or Canada, saying the family were in danger.

British Prime Minister Theresa May defended herself in Parliament after being asked whether she had intervened to stop the UK government offering asylum.

Mrs May told Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith he “shouldn’t necessarily believe everything he reads in the papers”, adding “the absolute prime concern” was the “safety and security” of Asia Bibi and her family.

Christians have also been targeted in other parts of the world. In China there has been a recent surge of police action against churches, raising concern that the government is getting tougher on unsanctioned Christian activity.

And Coptic Christians in Egypt have faced a series of attacks by extremists including the Islamic State (IS) group.

An annual survey of the countries where Christian persecution is greatest undertaken by Open Doors put North Korea at the top of the list, ahead of Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan. Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Libya and India.