British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced this week that he has ordered the creation of a new commission to investigate the persecution of Christians worldwide and how England can work to relieve the issue.
Bishop of Truro, the Rt Reverend Philip Mounstephen, has been tasked with leading the new group. Sky News reports that the commission has three goals:
- Mapping the persecution of Christians in "key countries" in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
- Provide an "objective analysis" of the level of UK governmental support on offer.
- Provide recommendations for a "cohesive and comprehensive policy response.”
In an op-ed written in The Telegraph, Hunt explained that while attending his local church, he came to the realization that “others around the world are facing death, torture and imprisonment for that very right.”
“It is distressingly poignant at Christmas to hear recent warnings that the persecution facing Christians across the globe is now most stark in the region of its birth,” he wrote, describing how the Middle East was at one time 20% Christian and now has shrunk to a disturbing 5%. He also cited the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic woman in hiding from radical Muslims after being acquitted of violating blasphemy laws, as an inspiration for the commission.
“Whatever the cause, we must never allow a misguided political correctness to inhibit our response to the persecution of any religious community,” he continued. “It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk. We should be willing to state that simple fact — and adjust our policies accordingly.”
The commission has been met with praise from Hunt's fellow Tories. Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan tweeted her support. “Thank you to @Jeremy_Hunt instituting a review of persecution of Christians around the world,” she tweeted.
Scotland MEP Nosheena Mobarik echoed those sentiments on social media, saying, “Over 700,000 Rohingya people have crossed into Bangladesh to flee persecution in the last year. I thoroughly support @jeremy_hunt in his quest to bring the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing to justice.”
This comes on the heels of reports that the Christian population in the Middle East “has dropped to less than 250,000,” as highlighted by The Daily Wire’s Paul Bois. This is one of the regions Hunt’s commission will focus on.
According to a study by the watchdog group Open Doors, an organization that maps suffering of Christians globally, many Middle Eastern countries are marked "Extreme" or "Very High" on their "World Watch List" rankings when it comes to persecution.
Asia Bibi's home country of Pakistan is listed as number five in the top ten worst countries for Christians to live.
“While long-standing historic churches have relative freedom in worship and religious activities, they are heavily monitored and regularly targeted for bomb attacks,” Open Doors reported. “Churches that are engaged in outreach and youth work face the worst of the persecution, although all Christians suffer from institutionalized discrimination. Occupations deemed as 'dirty' and 'shameful' are reserved for Christians, and many believers are victims of bonded labor. Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws target religious minorities but affect Christians the most, especially those who seek to evangelize.”