UK Government affirms commitment to implement Truro Persecution Review
The UK government has reaffirmed its commitment to put pressure on countries where Christians are facing serious persecution. Measures under consideration include sanctions and freezing financial assets.
Concerns that promised action against persecution might be swept aside in the recent election appear to have been allayed.
After his election victory, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated his government’s pledge to act on the growing problem of Christian persecution.
Defence Minister Baroness Goldie later confirmed in parliament that the government will implement every recommendation put forward by the Bishop of Truro in his recent persecution report.
During a foreign affairs debate in January, she told the House of Lords: ‘The government intend to implement the [Truro] recommendations in full.’
Release International contributed to research for that report, commissioned by the previous government and compiled by Bishop Philip Mounstephen.
His recommendations include:
- Considering sanctions on perpetrators of serious human rights abuses against religious minorities, including Christians
- Seeking a UN Security Council Resolution urging all governments in the Middle East and North Africa to protect Christians and other persecuted minorities, and to permit UN monitoring
- Mandatory training for all Foreign Office staff on religious literacy
- Empowering British embassies and high commissions to deliver tailored responses to violations of freedom of religion or belief
The Truro persecution report highlighted that Christians make up 80 per cent of those persecuted for their faith around the world.
Standing with them
In his recent Christmas message, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed sympathy for Christians ‘facing persecution’.
‘For them,’ he added, ‘Christmas Day will be marked in private, in secret, perhaps even in a prison cell. As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change.’
He continued: ‘We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend your right to practice your faith.’
Release CEO Paul Robinson said: ‘Release is immensely grateful that the UK government has declared the world will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to discrimination against Christians.’
His letter to the PM urged Boris Johnson to implement his ‘breakthrough policy to stand up for freedom’. You can read that letter below.
‘PROTECTION OF FREEDOM’
During the Queen’s Speech debate on January 7, setting out government policy for the coming year, Baroness Goldie told the House of Lords:
‘Promoting and defending our national interests will include standing up robustly for our values of democracy, equality, human rights and the rule of law, as a global force for good, and that, of course, includes the protection of freedom of religion or belief.’
She continued: ‘[On] the important matter of the Truro review and its recommendations. The government intend to implement the recommendations in full.’
‘MAKE IT HAPPEN, MR PRIME MINISTER’
To the Right Honorable Boris Johnson
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
I write to you today, to congratulate you on your success and renewed mandate to lead the United Kingdom in Government as our Prime Minister.
I am also very pleased that prior to the General Election, you pledged to protect Christians from growing persecution, by linking trade and aid with religious freedom.
A government-commissioned report by the Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, highlighted that Christians have become the world’s most persecuted faith group, suffering 80 per cent of all religious persecution. Release International, which upholds the freedom of Christians around the world, contributed to that report, whose recommendations were accepted in full.
Release is immensely grateful that the UK government has declared that the world will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to discrimination against Christians.
Your government’s decision to put the plight of persecuted Christians front and centre of foreign policy will send a vital message to governments everywhere that the suffering and violence has to stop.
The annual Pew Report also uncovered a record increase in restrictions on religion imposed by many governments around the world. According to the report, Christians now face harassment in 143 countries.
Release highlights four countries of growing concern where Christians are suffering violence:
In Nigeria, thousands of Christian villagers are being slaughtered by militants opposed to the Christian faith. In China churches are being closed and their leaders arrested and detained; in North Korea Christians are treated as political prisoners, and in Pakistan they are falsely accused under blasphemy laws. The recent case of Asia Bibi is just one example. Around the world a growing number of Christians are imprisoned for their faith.
Back in July, then Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan welcomed the Bishop of Truro’s persecution report. He told the House of Commons: ‘The government has decided to accept every recommendation in full. We will put Freedom of Religion or Belief at the heart of FCO culture.’
That means taking sanctions, if necessary, linking aid and trade to religious freedom, and creating a new framework for dealing with persecution.
Sir I do humbly ask that you press ahead with this breakthrough policy to stand up for freedom around the world. Now, Mr Johnson, your mandate has been renewed. We pray that you will make it happen.
Chief Executive Officer
You can read the Bishop of Truro’s Persecution Review here