Report on the religious persecution of Christians urges to take measures to defend religious freedom

ACN was actively involved in the recent independent report

A report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary has been published showing the scale of persecution of Christians around the world and the response of the United Kingdom Government to their plight.

The report is the first of its kind to be requested by a national government minister and produced with the cooperation of government civil service and other officials. The review was overseen by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Reverend Philip Mounstephen. The full report, which follows an interim report released in May, is being officially launched today (Monday – 15 July).

Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of the UK national office of ACN.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of the UK national office of ACN.

In his introduction to the report, Bishop Mounstephen points out that Christian persecution is not an isolated incident, but rather a “global phenomenon”. In the report, he also remarks that the focus on Christianity is “not about special pleading for Christians, but making up a significant deficit”. Reflecting on the findings of the report, he states that Christians are the religious group who suffer the most persecution. The Church of England Bishop expressed regret that Western nations “have been blind to this issue” and expressed the hope that the report would be a wake-up call “not to be spectators but to be actors”. He emphasised that the persecution of Christians is a question of universal human rights and should be seen as such.

The report was drawn up by a commission composed of FCO staff, members of NGOs experienced in the field of religious freedom and other independent members. Among the bodies included was the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which for over 70 years now has been supporting persecuted Christians around the world. ACN was closely involved in the information-gathering for the first part of the report – an investigation into the extent of persecution around the world over five years between 2014 and 2018. On behalf of ACN, John Pontifex and John Newton provided research materials including global assessments, regional and country analysis and case studies on incidents of persecution in countries including Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Nigeria and Vietnam.

Report on the religious persecution of Christians urges to take measures to defend religious freedom.
Report on the religious persecution of Christians urges to take measures to defend religious freedom.

The second and third phase of the report, where ACN UK had no involvement, include a review of FCO response to persecution of Christians and recommendations for the foreign office.

The document, which runs to 176 pages, concludes with a list of 22 recommendations directed at the FCO. It calls for more government action in response to the violence against Christians, which it describes as having at times reached “near genocidal levels”. Among other things it calls on the British government to ensure that “freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) remains at the heart of the priorities of UK foreign policy”, and urges the country to become a “global leader in championing FoRB”.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of the UK national office of ACN, underlined report’s importance, saying: “We are delighted to have been involved in this report. It is an incentive for our work that these problems should finally be recognised at the political level.” Mr Kyrke-Smith said he hopes that the “new Prime Minister may be that he will implement in full the recommendations of this report”. At the same time he stressed the importance of protecting Christian minorities in countries where they face persecution and oppression. “There is a vital need to support this Christian presence, given that the Christians are frequently bridge builders and agents of peace in many of these countries.”

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