4 December 2013
UK government urged to show serious concern over persecution of Christians
Back bench MPs speak out after dismissive remark in House of Commons from Mark Simmonds, Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Backbench MPs reacted with anger as a foreign office minister tried to play down the persecution of Christians during an ‘impassioned debate’ on the subject in the House of Commons.
During a debate in parliament yesterday calling on the UK government ‘to do more both in its foreign policy and through its aid work to defend and support people of Christian faith,’ MPs accused frontbenchers of trying to widen it to a general discussion of human rights.
Following remarks from Mark Simmonds, Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, that ‘we should not be standing up for our co-religionists or Christians in particular,’ Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury, stressed that the precarious situation of 200 million Christians required a definite response from government.
“There is a risk of the foreign office not appreciating the real growing concern about the global persecution of Christians,” Mr Baldry said.
Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim, detailed some of the problems facing Christians around the world, as he expressed disappointment with the response from the front benches.
“Within the last month, hundreds of people, from Nigeria to Eritrea to Kazakhstan to China, have been arrested and put in prison simply because of their faith, and when they go into prison they are denied due process,” Mr Wilson said.
“They are denied access to lawyers, they are sometimes even denied knowledge of the charges facing them, they can languish in prison for a long time and in horrible conditions.
“Any other overseas problem on that scale would have been a priority for the foreign office, yet the minister and the opposition front bench spokesman attempted to widen this topic rather than to zone in on the real issue—which is this is a particular group of people who are being persecuted.”
Shadow foreign office minister Kerry McCarthy had also broadened the debate to include other groups whose human rights are being denied.
“I do not think that we should start carving up human rights by saying that some abuses are worse than others,” she said. “That would be entirely wrong, because there are countries in which people of other faiths are being persecuted and killed, and we see persecution when we look at violence against women and attacks on LGBT communities.”
Complaining that he did not ‘detect a sense of burning anger about what is happening to Christians’ in the foreign office speech, Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, went on to say MPs should ‘be angry about any persecution of any religion’—but stressed that the overwhelming number of human right violations are directed at Christians.
Responding to the speeches of his fellow parliamentarians, Mr Simmonds called it an ‘impassioned debate outlining many of the horrors and persecutions suffered by Christians around the world.’
The debate, which closed with the house adopting the motion, was informed by research from various bodies, including Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need’s recent Persecuted and Forgotten? report, which was cited by Angie Bray, MP for Ealing Central and Acton.
Nigel Dodds, MP for Belfast North, said: “I pay tribute to the organisations that are doing their level best to highlight what is going on. Open Doors, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Barnabas Fund and Aid to the Church in Need are just some of the organisations that highlight the persecution of Christians.”
One Christian is killed every 11 minutes: UK Parliament told
5 December 2013
The plight of Christians around the world was discussed in a three-hour debate at the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday.
Members of the House of Commons were told that the persecution of Christians is increasing, that one Christian is killed around every 11 minutes around the world, and that Christianity is the “most persecuted religion globally”.
A long list of countries in which life as a Christian is most difficult was discussed, including Syria, North Korea, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iraq and Egypt.
MP Jim Shannon said the persecution of Christians is “the biggest story in the world that has never been told”.
He said that although the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are many countries in which these rights are not given.
Shannon alleged that 200 million Christians will be persecuted for their faith this year, while he said that 500 million live in “dangerous neighbourhoods”.
He added that in Syria Christians are “caught between opposing sides in the conflict”, and mentioned the “specific targeting” of Christian-dominated locations, such as Sadad and Maaloula.
MP Sammy Wilson said that in Syria, “50,000 Christians have been cleared from the city of Homs”, while in Sudan two million Christians were killed by the regime over a 30-year period.
He added: “Within the last month, hundreds of people, from Nigeria to Eritrea to Kazakhstan to China, have been arrested and put in prison simply because of their faith, and when they go into prison they are denied due process. They are denied access to lawyers. They are sometimes even denied knowledge of the charges facing them. They can languish in prison for a long time and in horrible conditions… This is not only happening in Muslim countries. From Morocco to Pakistan, Christians in Muslim countries are under threat, but it happens elsewhere too.”
Destroyed and burned out homes of Christians in Africa
The recent comments of Baroness Warsi at a lecture in Washington were echoed, including her assertion that “the parts of the world where Christianity first spread is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving, and those that are remaining feeling persecuted”.
MP Nigel Dodds said that the “persecution of Christians is not new”, but that it is “staggering” how many Christians are killed today.
“Here’s what the “arab spring” has wrought in Egypt. A place where daily the President of the United States called for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, yet when Mubarek was head of the Egyptian government Christians were not being hunted down, tortured, killed, and hung to die on street lights.”
Boko-Harum massacre Christians at Maspero
In Iraq, he noted the words of Canon Andrew White, who had said that Christians are “frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets… We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only 200,000 left… There are more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than there are here”.
Sir Edward Leigh said the remaining number of Christians in Iraq was likely to be closer to 600,000, but that this was still a shocking figure and that “things have become much worse since the invasion”.
MP Rehman Chishti said: “I come from a Muslim background, and my father was an imam… I know it is absolutely right and proper to have a debate on the subject”. He called the persecution “completely and utterly unacceptable” and “a very sad state of affairs”.
He also quoted his “good friend” the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali: “He told me that the persecution of Christians was taking place in more than 130 of the 190 countries in the world at the moment”.
“Two men who were discovered to be Christians in Iran”
During the debate, the oppression experienced by Christians in China and Malaysia were also highlighted and outlined. As the British Prime Minister is currently in China, MP David Rutley raised the issue of the sizeable Christian community in China, and asked about the potential establishment of a deeper inter-faith dialogue to engage the Chinese authorities with Christian groups.
Meanwhile, a UK-based organisation has claimed that the number of countries posing an extreme risk to the human rights of their populations has risen by 70 per cent in the past five years.
Risk analysis company Maplecroft (which researched 197 countries for its annual Human Rights Risk Atlas 2014) says that since 2008 the number has risen steeply from 20 to 34, predominantly comprised of countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Syria tops the list, followed by Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
One could post almost an endless array of photographic images of Christians in various places around the world being persecuted for the name of Jesus Christ and having faith in the Lord. Many images so gruesome people do not want to confront and know they happen. Denial. Refusing the truth. And the slaughter goes on ad infinidum.