Persecution of Christians Abroad April 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently concerning Christian persecution abroad and the related campaign by Open Doors/Barnabas Fund.

I know that a number of charities and human rights organisations have expressed continuing concerns about the persecution of Christians abroad and reported human rights abuses.

My view is that the persecution of Christians and, indeed, other religious groups is entirely unacceptable, and I agree that all people should be able to practice and profess their religious faith free from persecution. However, reports such as the 2016 Open Doors Report remind us that in certain parts of the world religious freedom is still ruthlessly oppressed and that Christian persecution is prevalent and growing in a number of fragile or failed states where extremist groups operate. Indeed, the severity of reported human rights abuses and persecution across Syria and Iraq has been described by some Christian groups as constituting 'genocide', and I am aware that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently resolved that Daesh has perpetrated genocidal acts.

There is no doubt that Daesh is killing people because they belong to ethnic, racial or religious groups, and as such it has all the hallmarks of genocide as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes. We now need all the facts and all the evidence to be gathered together, including the information that the US Government has seen, and the UK should now offer its assistance and expertise to enable this to happen. The United Nations Security Council should also immediately refer this matter to the International Criminal Court to enable the perpetrators to be held to account for their crimes.

Barnabas Fund has classified countries such as Syria, Iraq and Nigeria as having 'critical' levels of persecution against Christians. I am also aware that, according to Open Doors, the majority of reported killings of Christians for directly faith-related reasons in 2015 occurred in Nigeria, and over 1.3 million Christians in that country have been displaced since 2000.

Britain's voice in the world is a reflection of the moral leadership that we demonstrate on human rights, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should continue to make human rights a priority. Unfortunately, I fear that cuts to the FCO over the last Parliament have resulted in a change in the FCO's focus and a downgrading of its focus on human rights.

Open Doors/Barnabas Fund and other Christian organisations play an important and crucial role in highlighting these terrible cases which are taking place around the world. I welcome the debate about the crimes of ISIS which is happening in the House of Commons on 20th April. I hope the Government will continue to listen to religious organisations to ensure that we are doing all that we can to help address religious persecution around the world.

I can assure you that I will continue to follow this important issue closely. Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.