Calls for UK to impose sanctions on countries who persecute Christians

Report commissioned by UK foreign secretary reveals Christians constitute the most widely persecuted religion

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 08: Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks at a press conference with the Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, right, about the Bishop's final report into the Foreign Office's support for Persecuted Christians around the world on July 8, 2019 in London. (Photo by Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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Countries that persecute Christians and religious minorities could face sanctions from the UK after a global report revealed widespread abuses.

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.

It has revealed that Christians constitute by far the most widely persecuted religion.

As a result, it is calling on the UK government to consider imposing sanctions on perpetrators of serious human rights abuses against religious minorities.

The report said: “There is a sense that for a number of reasons we have been blind to this issue – and those reasons would certainly include post-colonial guilt: a sense that we have interfered uninvited in certain contexts in the past so we should not do so again.”

It recommends that the UK Foreign Office seeks a Security Council Resolution urging all governments in the Middle East and North Africa to protect Christians, and other persecuted minorities, and allow UN observers to monitor the necessary security measures.

Mr Hunt said: “The sense of misguided political correctness that has stopped us standing up for Christians overseas must end.

“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.”

The review also recommends that a stream of the Magna Carta Fund, dedicated to helping persecuted Christians, is established, that foreign office staff receive mandatory training on religious literacy and British embassies should deliver tailored responses to any violations of freedom of religion or belief.

The Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen said: “My hope is that in adopting my recommendations the Foreign Office will be able to bring its considerable experience and expertise to bear in helping some of the planet’s most vulnerable people.”

Open Doors, which monitors Christian persecution around the world, estimates that in 2019, 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution or “on average 345 Christians are killed every month for faith-related issues”.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief said: “Both strategically and through a focus on priority countries, we have not only raised the profile of religious persecution and abuse, but also acted on the rising tide of Christian persecution across the world with some success.

“We therefore note the findings of this independent report and will consider the recommendations carefully and how they may further enhance our work in tackling Christian persecution specifically and in strengthening our work on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

“The report highlights the shocking impunity with which discriminatory laws, fear and violence are used by state and non-state actors to discriminate appallingly against Christians in countries across the world.”

The report was commissioned last December.

It is estimated a third of the world’s population suffer from religious persecution in some form, with 80 per cent of them being Christians.