A Church of England bishop investigating the Government’s response to persecution against Christians globally says he is “determined” to ask “tough questions”.

Speaking at the launch of an independent review of the matter, the Bishop of Truro said he also wanted to offer “ambitious policy recommendations for the UK”.

Rt Rev Phillip Mountstephen cited a number of factors including “post-colonial guilt” as fueling a sense that the UK has not been as vocal as it should be in opposing persecution in the developing world.

He said: “There are a number of reasons why we have been blind to this issue.

“This is not about special pleading for Christians; rather, it’s about ensuring that Christians in the global south have a fair share of the UK’s attention and concern. So, in that sense it is actually an equality issue. 

Fresh scrutiny of how the UK uses its soft power (including trade and diplomatic ties) to stand up for the estimated 200 million believers at risk of being persecuted received a warm welcome from various Christian organisations.

The Foundation for Reconciliation and Relief in the Middle East, a Christian charity offering humanitarian aid throughout the region, said the review was a “bold move” to be “applauded”.

Chief executive officer, Mike Simpson also told Premier: “In the past, there have been too many words and not enough action on the part of the UK Government because of a political correctness which has pervaded…arms of government; I’m hoping this review will shine some light on that.”

The review, officially launched at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in central London on Wednesday morning, is being chaired by Bishop Philip. He is due to report his findings in Easter. 

Open Doors, which compiles an annual list of countries where Christians face the most intense levels of persecution, said it was “very encouraged” by the review.

Explaining two tests for the investigation, CEO Henrietta Blyth told Premier: “The World Watch List research that Open Doors does – and research other organisations do – already provide a lot of information about what’s going on.

“Whether the review is able to match that with a good analysis of what the Foreign Office is currently doing will be one [test]. 

“The second [test] will be the quality of the recommendations. Bishop Philip is saying he isn’t going to pull his punches so we’re looking for some edgy recommendations, and for the Foreign Office to really take action as a result.”

Speaking at the launch, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Sunday’s deadly bombing at a cathedral in the Philippines served as a “vivid reminder” that persecution against Christians is a growing threat.

He also said: “We wanted to do this [review] not just because freedom of worship is a fundamental human right but also because freedom of worship is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies.”


Date published: 04/02/2019
Written by: Alex Williams
Feature image: Rev Phillip Mountstephen
Article source: www.premier.org.uk

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