MPs vote on persecution

06 December 2013

SHUTTERSTOCK

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 abuses.

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 mainstream media.

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".

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