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Persecution of Christians close to genocide levels: UK report

“Christians are the most persecuted religious group,” states UK Foreign Secretary

Persecution of Christians is approaching genocidal levels in the Middle East, northern Africa and the Philippines, according to a report commissioned by the UK government.

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“In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN,” stated the interim report released this week.

The global-focused, independent review into Christian persecution is being led by an Anglican Bishop but was called for by the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

As reported by The Guardian, Hunt, a Christian, has been vocal about making the issue of Christian persecution a key part of his role. “I think we have shied away from talking about Christian persecution because we are a Christian country and we have a colonial past, so sometimes there’s a nervousness there,” said Hunt.

“But we have to recognise – and that’s what the bishop’s report points out very starkly – that Christians are the most persecuted religious group.” The interim report’s conclusions include that “the inconvenient truth” is “the overwhelming majority (estimated at 80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians.”

 The report draws upon regional summaries, international research and news reports completed by organisations such as Christian support network Open Doors (World Watch List), as well as universities and media outlets.

In a week when news of Asia Bibi’s release to Canada was made public and the world still recovers from Easter Sunday attacks on churches in Sri Lanka, Hunt blames “political correctness” for lack of action in the UK about Christian persecution around the world.

“What we have forgotten in this atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet,” said Hunt. “In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.”

“We’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.”

According to the report, extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines have the “specific and stated objective” of eradicating Christians and other minorities.

With disturbing figures such as Iraq’s Christian population of 1.5 million before 2003 plummeting to less than 120,000, the report acknowledges that focusing upon Christians should not elevate their status above any other persecuted group. “Significantly, [the report] will argue that a focus on Christian persecution must not be to the detriment of other minorities, but rather helps and supports them. However, research consistently indicates that Christians are ‘the most widely targeted religious community’.”

Released today, With All Due Respect podcast with Michael Jensen and Megan Powell du Toit centres on whether Christians in Australia are persecuted. With the Israel Folau/Rugby Australia case hitting the headlines, the definition of persecution against Christians remains a live discussion in Australia.

While the interim report for the British Foreign Secretary uses broad parameters to determine the level of Christian persecution worldwide, its most shocking findings go beyond workplace or other domestic conflicts. Honing in on the Middle East and some North African nations, for example, the report finds “the persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in [this] region of the birthplace of Christianity

“Forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.”

The full review is expected to be released in mid 2019. Encouragingly for persecuted people around the world, the interim report states that one of its aims is to challenge the British government – and its citizens – to seek practical solutions to the issues it highlights.

“My conclusions and recommendations may be uncomfortable to hear: the challenge for ministers and … civil servants will be to turn these into workable solutions that can be implemented.”

“The challenge for the rest of our community will be to partner with some of the finest diplomats in the world to ensure that the freedoms that Britain was at the forefront of creating become a reality for both Christians, and people of all faiths and none, around the world today.”

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