The government has ordered an independent review into the persecution of Christians across the globe after 250 Christians on average were killed every month because of their faith last year.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, announced the review today, saying it would make recommendations on the practical steps the government can take to better support persecuted Christians.
In what the government described as a dramatic rise in violence, 215 million Christians worldwide faced persecution because of their faith last year. Christian women and children are particularly vulnerable to persecution, and are often subjected to sexual violence as a result of their beliefs.
Mr Hunt said he hoped to use the review, which will be led by Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, to consider some “tough questions” and shape Britain’s foreign policy response to ensure the level of UK support reflects the scale of suffering.
Britain already stands up for minorities across the world, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Yazidis, and the foreign secretary said he was keen that Christians were offered the same level of backing.
“So often the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority,” he said.
“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.”
The prime minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, said: “This is an issue that resonates deeply: 70 years ago during the partition of India, my family had to leave their home and livelihoods simply because of their faith.
“Seventy years later religious persecution is on the rise around the world.
“Our government has prioritised freedom of religion or belief and the review we are announcing today is about providing an objective view of Britain’s support for the most vulnerable Christians globally.
The government said the review would map Christian persecution in key countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, provide an objective analysis of the levels of government support and provide recommendations on a cohesive and comprehensive policy response.
Mr Mounstephen said: “I’m honoured to have been invited to lead this review on an issue close to my heart.
“Part of the Christmas story tells how Jesus was himself the victim of persecution so it seems particularly timely to launch this review at this season.
“I’ll be taking an objective look at how the British government can better respond to the pressing plight of persecuted Christians around the world.”
The review is due to report around Easter.
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