CHRISTIAN persecution is once again filling our headlines,
dominating our prayers, and weighing down our hearts.
This Easter weekend took place in the dark shadow of the brutal
murder of 147 students in Garissa University in Kenya. Christian
students were callously singled out and brutally killed by a
murderous terrorist group that continues to terrorise the
The sermons and teachings of religious leaders this weekend were
rich in references to this suffering. While many of us attended
services during Holy Week, our fellow Christians in Kenya turned to
armed guards to protect their congregations on the most important
day of the Christian calendar.
Even before this latest massacre in Kenya, 2015 has been a year
of recurring tragedy. Last month, in Lahore, suicide bombers
attacked two churches, killing 17 people, and setting off a cycle
of violence across the city. Today, 76 per cent of the world's
population live in countries with high restrictions on religious
freedom, and the vast majority of those facing persecution are
Christians. Christians are subject to violence, intimidation, and
discrimination in more than 50 countries.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was right to appeal for more to be
done. He has called on us all to tackle this "climate of fear and
Other governments are already showing strong leadership. The
United States and Canada have both appointed international
ambassadors for tackling religious persecution. The UK, having
fallen behind, should now follow suit.
An incoming Labour government would appoint a global envoy for
religious freedom, reporting directly to the Foreign Secretary.
In addition, Labour would establish a multifaith advisory
council on religious freedom within the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office. Tackling religious persecution would be a key
foreign-policy priority. Not just because it is po-litically right,
but because it is a moral necessity.
Douglas Alexander is the Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary,
and served as Secretary for International Development under Gordon