From The Rev’d Gareth Miller – August 2019

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Dear friends

I have just been reading the report of the Independent Review into Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for persecuted Christians worldwide, led by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen.

In its overview the report says: “Despite the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is foundational to the UN Charter, which is binding on member states, and that ‘the denial of religious liberty is almost everywhere viewed as morally and legally invalid’, in today’s world religious freedom is far from being an existential reality.”

Among the key research findings are:

  • The Pew Research Centre concluded that in 2016 Christians were targeted in 144 countries, a rise from 125 in 2015. The Centre concluded that “Christians have been harassed in more countries than any other religious group and have suffered harassment in many of the heavily Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa”.
  • NGO Open Doors revealed that “approximately 245 million Christians living in the top 50 countries suffer high levels of persecution or worse”, 30 million up on the previous year.
  • Open Doors stated that within five years the number of countries classified as having “extreme” persecution had risen from one (North Korea) to 11.
  • Both Open Doors and Aid to the Church in Need have highlighted the increasing threat from “aggressive nationalism” or “ultra-nationalism” in countries such as China and India – growing world powers – as well as from Islamist militia groups.
  • According to Persecution Relief, 736 attacks were recorded in India in 2017, up from 348 in 2016. With reports in China showing an upsurge of persecution against Christians between 2014 and 2016, government authorities in Zheijiang Province targeted up to 2,000 churches, which were either partially or completely destroyed or had their crosses removed.

Bishop Philip said: “In preparing this report I’ve been truly shocked by the severity, scale and scope of the problem. Why have we been so blind to this situation for so long”

“It is ironic that many western secularists, Islamic extremists and authoritarian regimes share a common assumption – that the Christian faith is primarily an expression of white western privilege. In fact, Christianity is primarily a phenomenon of the global south and the global poor.

 “It seems to me that there are two existential, global threats to human flourishing and harmonious communities: climate change and the systematic denial of freedom of religious belief. We are quite rightly becoming sensitised to the former. We must urgently attend to the latter.”

I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss this in our churches, and I will be looking out for the FCO’s response.