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UK orders review on Christians facing ‘greatest risk’

Open Doors alleges that India is among 50 countries “most difficult to live as a Christian”. The list is topped by North Korea and Pakistan figures in the top nine countries where the persecution level is alleged to be “extreme”.

world Updated: Dec 26, 2018 22:59 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Pakistan,christian,Persecution of Christians
Iraqi policemen stand on guard outside the Syriac Catholic Church of Mar Jacob al Muqataa in the predominantly Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh, in Niniveh province some 30 kilometres from Mosul, on December 25.(AFP Photo)

Citing the case of Asia Bibi of Pakistan, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday announced an independent global review on how the UK could do more to help Christians facing persecution in several countries.

Britain had been urged to provide refuge to Bibi, who is reportedly in a safe house in Pakistan after her death sentence for blasphemy was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court.

Her plight has moved the hearts of the British public, Hunt wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

“It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk”, he wrote, announcing the review by Reverend Philip Mounstephen, bishop of Truro.

“Across the world, about 215 million Christians suffer persecution, according to the campaign group, Open Doors. The International Society for Human Rights has found that Christians are the victims of 80% of all acts of religious discrimination,” Hunt wrote.

According to Open Doors, India is among 50 countries where it alleges is “most difficult to live as a Christian”. The list is topped by North Korea and Pakistan figures in the top nine countries where the persecution level is alleged to be “extreme”.

In October, Prime Minister Theresa May denied in parliament reports that she had rejected an appeal for asylum by the Bibi family over fears that it might stir up tensions in the Muslim community in Britain, insisting the government was working towards a resolution with other countries.

She told MPs: “We could approach this in two ways. We could go out there and say something, just to show that the UK is doing that, or we could ask what is right for Asia Bibi. We are working with others in the international community and with the Pakistani government to ensure that our prime aim – the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family – is provided for.”

On the review, Hunt wrote: “I would like this exercise to consider some tough questions and offer ambitious policy recommendations: Britain has - in my view - the best diplomatic network in the world, so how can we use that to encourage countries to provide proper security for minority groups under threat?”

“Have we been generous enough in offering practical assistance, and does the level of UK support match the scale of the suffering? Have we always got our foreign policy priorities right in terms of advocating for and expressing solidarity with this group?”

First Published: Dec 26, 2018 22:54 IST