Britain launches review on persecution of Christians around the world

  • Last year, about 250 Christians were killed each month because of their faith
  • A report will make recommendations on steps the government can take to better support persecuted Christians
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2018, 10:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2018, 11:07pm

Britain has launched a review into the persecution of Christians worldwide in response to a surge in violence against members of the faith, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on Wednesday.

The report will make recommendations on steps the government can take to better support persecuted Christians.

The Foreign Office cited a “dramatic rise” in violence that saw 215 million Christians face persecution for their faith last year.

Women and children are particularly vulnerable and often subjected to sexual violence, the ministry said.

Last year, 250 Christians were killed each month on average because of their faith, the Foreign Office said.

“So often the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority,” Hunt said in a statement.

“Today I have asked the Bishop of Truro to look at how the British government can better respond to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. We can and must do more,” he said.

The report, due in April, will attempt to map Christian persecution across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, analyse the levels of British government support and suggest a comprehensive policy response.

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An annual survey of the countries where Christian persecution is greatest, undertaken by Open Doors – a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians – , 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 – all countries in which the UK claims or seeks diplomatic influence – are placed in the top 20, underlining how sensitive the inquiry may prove, if it is not to cause offence.

Hunt’s announcement comes as the British government continues to face criticism for not offering sanctuary to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, and is still in custody almost two months after her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court.

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Bibi, a former farm labourer, is being held in a safe house as Pakistani authorities say her life would be at risk from Islamic extremists if she were freed. Her husband and children are also in hiding.

Bibi’s lawyer, relatives and supporters have appealed for the family to be given asylum in a European or North American country. Several countries have indicated their willingness to offer a home, but nothing concrete has emerged.

Additional reporting by The Guardian