Release International is calling on the UK government to make good its promises to take a decisive stand against rapidly rising Christian persecution around the world. Release is hosting a seminar highlighting the fast-growing violence in the Sahel and Nigeria, and is calling on governments to stop turning a blind eye to the slaughter.
The UK is hosting a major international conference for ministers on Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) in London on July 5 and 6.
The government is also conducting a review of the Truro Report into Christian persecution. The government has pledged to implement in full its findings.
Says Release International CEO, Paul Robinson: ‘How many more Christians have to die for their faith before governments around the world take decisive action?
‘The Truro Review has recognised that 80 percent of the violence against faith groups worldwide is directed against Christians. The scale is horrific, and the problem is getting worse by the day.
‘Millions have been displaced in Nigeria, and Islamist violence by terror groups is out of control in a broad swathe right the way across Africa. The government must implement the Truro Review in full, and as a clear priority.’
One of the keynote speakers at the FoRB ministerial is the Prime Minister’s special envoy, Fiona Bruce MP. She says: ‘Some 360 million Christians around the world suffer persecution for their faith. Somewhere in the world every two hours a Christian is killed for their faith.’
Release is encouraging Christians around the UK to pray and intercede during the FoRB conference.
‘Please pray for these decision makers from around the world, that eyes will be opened and hearts moved to act decisively to prevent this appalling and worsening violence against Christians,’ says Paul Robinson.
On Tuesday July 5, ahead of the FoRB event, Release International is hosting a seminar at the Christians in Parliament Prayer Breakfast on the growing violence in the Sahel region of Africa and Nigeria.
Release’s latest annual Persecution Trends report identified the Sahel and Nigeria as areas of particular concern.
The seminar: Persecution in Africa: God’s Goodness in Times of Trial, will include a briefing on Africa.
Keynote speaker ‘Dr Susanna’, a Release International partner, has many years of experience of the emerging jihad in Burkina Faso.
‘Many people try to say that these are simply tribal wars,’ she says. ‘But what we see is the radicalisation of Muslims. The jihadists are trying to make an Islamic State of Greater Sahara. It is obvious that this is a religious conflict.
‘Christians are killed on the spot. If you’re kidnapped and you’re a believer, there is no possibility you will survive.’
Another Release partner, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, gives a video update on the worsening situation in Nigeria.
‘Since 2001,’ he says, ‘not less than 20,000 Christians have been killed in Plateau State alone. And the world is silent.
‘Boko Haram has joined forces with ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province). And they have one goal – to Islamise Nigeria. Their first target is the Church.’
Jailed with ISIS
Petr Jasek, another Release partner, was jailed as a spy in Sudan for gathering information about attacks against Christian churches in that country. He is flying to London to address the Release International seminar.
‘I was falsely accused while documenting persecution,’ he says. ‘I was facing the death penalty. For 14 and a half months, I shared a prison cell with ISIS fighters. One took part in the killing of Egyptian prisoners on the Libyan shore.’ Another was a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden.
On Tuesday July 5, Release International and other charities serving the persecuted church will be attending a public gathering on freedom of religion and belief in Parliament Square, led by David Burrowes and the Rev Mark Ryan.
Release was among the contributors to the Truro Review into Christian persecution. Its author, Bishop Philip Mounstephen, said: ‘I was shocked by the scale, the scope and the severity.
‘Christian persecution is global,’ he told a recent conference organised by Bible Society. ‘And because the Christian faith is a global faith, it has become a bellwether for all persecution. If freedom of religion and belief fall, many other rights fall, too.
‘Open Western eyes’
‘The time for inaction and indifference by secular western governments is over. May God continue to open Western eyes, which until now have been very closed.’
Release International is active in some 30 countries. It works through partners to prayerfully, pastorally, and practically support the families of Christian martyrs, prisoners of faith and their families.
It also supports Christians suffering oppression and violence, and those forced to flee.