A FOREIGN OFFICE minister and a shadow spokesman for foreign
affairs were criticised by MPs on all sides of the House of Commons
this week during a debate on the persecution of Christians.
MPs said that the Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, and the
Labour MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy, did not understand the
strength of feeling in the House over the issue, after they used
their speeches to widen the debate to other human-rights
Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church Commissioners in the
Commons, praised the Church Times for its "heart-rending"
reporting on the issue, which, he said, was being ignored by
He warned the two front benches that "something different is
required in response to the fact that 200 million Christians are
now threatened with persecution, the loss of the right to practise
their faith, and the loss of their livelihoods, homes, and even
lives. That is not acceptable; it has to change."
The Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon opened the debate
with a list of cases from around the world, including incidents in
Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. "The persecution of Christians
is the biggest story in the world that has never been told, and its
importance cannot be underlined enough."
"When Christians are persecuted, we . . . speak out clearly and
forcefully," Mr Simmonds said. "Where Christians or any religious
believers are victims of persecution, we will condemn the violence
and ask the relevant authorities to ensure that justice is served.
There can be and should be no impunity for those who persecute
individuals on the basis of religion or belief."
MPs approved a motion that recognised Christianity as "the most
persecuted religion globally", and called on the Government to "do
more . . . to defend and support people of Christian faith".