The report into the persecution of Christians around the world has been released, alongside recommendations and criticisms by the Bishop of Truro.
Commissioned in December by Jeremy Hunt, the findings today show that 80% of religiously motivated attacks in the world are against Christians and that this should now be called ‘Christophobia’.
The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen recommended that the government be prepared to impose sanctions, ensure they are able to respond to immediately atrocities and establish a ‘John Bunyan’ fund, named after the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, to go towards helping persecuted Christians.
It also suggests Britain aspires to be the global leader in freedom of religion and belief and to ensure that those values underlie its operations abroad, with a specific commitment to upholding the rights of minorities.
Speaking at the launch of the report, the Conservative leadership candidate Mr Hunt said: “I’m not convinced that our efforts on behalf of Christians have always matched the scale of the problem, or indeed have reflected the evidence that it is Christians who frequently endure the heaviest burden in persecution.”
“Perhaps because of a misguided political correctness or an instinctive reluctance to talk about religion, British governments haven’t always grappled with this problem.”
He said it is not fair that Christians abroad have received so little attention and that if he becomes the next Prime Minister he would “accept the recommendations in full”.
One of the developments was the naming of this discrimination as Christophobia and that all Foreign Office staff should undergo mandatory training on religious literacy, subject to resources.
Mr Hunt ended by saying: “As the Christian doctrine of original sin reminds us, the capacity for wickedness is inherent in the human condition. We’ll never be able to extirpate anti-Christian bigotry but nor must we shrug our shoulders and walk on the other side of the road”.
The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen told Premier Christian Radio’s News Hour: “The Foreign Office really needs to get on the front foot and mainstream this issue.”
Bishop Philip added that he’d been personally struck by the scale of the problem but also how many other issues the topic of persecution had uncovered, saying: “If you lift the stone that’s marked ‘persecution’ you find all sorts of really unpleasant and sinsiter things underneath it – you find militant nationalism, you find authoritative regimes that brook no opposition, you find religious fundamentalism of various sorts that are often very intolerant of Christian minorities.”
Bishop Philip said he was shocked that the most dangerous place in the world to be a Catholic priest was Mexico because they often stand in the way of organised crime and that the situation in Nepal, China and India had worsened a lot in the last few years.
Speaking of Mr Hunt’s efforts, he said “I have been very impressed with him. I think he is a man of integrity and conviction and this is not an issue that he has just hitched his carriage to recently. He has been concerned about this issue for a long, long time…and I think it’s a conviction and a passion that he holds quite dearly”.
One of his recommendations was that the government be prepared to use sanctions. When asked what these would be, he replied: “I think the question of what sanction would be appropriate would change from context to context and of course whether you’re talking about individuals or whether you’re talking about states but there’s a tool kit of possibilities that are out there that governments have used in the past.”
You can read the report here.