Aid to the Church in Need has been involved in producing a report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary showing the scale of persecution of Christians around the world and the response of the United Kingdom Government to their plight, the first of its kind to be requested by a national government minister.
The report was drawn up by a commission composed of Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, members of NGOs experienced in the field of religious freedom including Aid to the Church in Need and other independent members.
ACN was closely involved in the information-gathering for the first part of the report – an investigation into the extent of persecution around the world over five years between 2014 and 2018.
On the occasion of the launch of the report in Rome yesterday 15th July 2019, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States said the report “is a tangible example of the growing concern over the problem of discrimination and persecution because of religious belief and of the determination to help bring greater awareness in particular to the tragic situations of Christians in many parts of the world, and to strive to overcome what Pope Francis has described as a “sort of genocide caused by general and collective indifference.’
The review was overseen by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Reverend Philip Mounstephen.
In his introduction to the report, Bishop Mounstephen points out that Christian persecution is not an isolated incident, but rather a “global phenomenon”. Reflecting on the findings of the report, he states that Christians are the religious group who suffer the most persecution.
On behalf of ACN, John Pontifex and John Newton provided research materials including global assessments, regional and country analysis and case studies on incidents of persecution in countries including Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Nigeria and Vietnam.
The second and third phase of the report, where ACN UK had no involvement, include a review of FCO response to persecution of Christians and recommendations for the foreign office.
The document, which runs to 176 pages, concludes with a list of 22 recommendations directed at the FCO. It calls for more government action in response to the violence against Christians, which it describes as having at times reached “near genocidal levels”. Among other things it calls on the British government to ensure that “freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) remains at the heart of the priorities of UK foreign policy”, and urges the country to become a “global leader in championing FoRB”.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of the UK national office of ACN, underlined report’s importance, saying: “We are delighted to have been involved in this report. It is an incentive for our work that these problems should finally be recognised at the political level.” Mr Kyrke-Smith said he hopes that the “new Prime Minister may be that he will implement in full the recommendations of this report”. At the same time he stressed the importance of protecting Christian minorities in countries where they face persecution and oppression. “There is a vital need to support this Christian presence, given that the Christians are frequently bridge builders and agents of peace in many of these countries.”