The persecution of Christians, and indeed any religious group, is entirely unacceptable. All people should be able to practice and profess their religious faith free from persecution, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
It is deeply concerning that persecution of Christians has risen across the world in the last year, according to the 2019 World Watch List report by Open Doors. Indeed, nearly a quarter of a billion Christians now face persecution and I was shocked to learn that over 4,300 Christians were killed for their faith in 2018.
The recent attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday have brought this issue to the fore and highlighted the threats that many Christians face whilst peacefully practising their religion
I know the Foreign Secretary has launched an independent review of how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) supports persecuted Christians. This review will be an important piece of work and it is a good opportunity to reflect on the action currently being taken and to consider what more can be done. I hope that the review and the Government will look closely at the suggestions that have been made in response to it.
I believe the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and belief, should be at the heart of UK foreign policy. We must do everything in our power to ensure that people of faith around the world have the freedom to pursue their beliefs without fear of harassment or victimisation. This should include using all diplomatic means available, including bilateral relations and multilateral forums such as the UN, to ensure that international law is adhered to where there are humanitarian issues and breaches of human rights.
In the past, I have raised my concerns over the persecution of Christians abroad with the UK Government. For example, I raised the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the Government of President Kabila was cracking down on the DRC Catholic Church.
I can assure you that I will continue to raise cases like this with the Government in the future.