HAYES IN THE HOUSE: The Persecution of Christians
The Bishop of Truro, who I met recently in the House of Commons, when he asked for my support, has issued a warning so stark it should alarm us all.
According to his shocking report, Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world, with levels of harassment, violence and oppression reaching ‘genocidal levels’. Every day, worldwide, 11 Christians are killed for their faith; every month 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; whilst 195 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked.
If current trends continue, the world’s largest faith looks set to totally disappear from some parts of the globe. In the Middle East, the historic centre of Christendom, Christianity is on course to be virtually wiped out entirely in the near future.
We cannot afford to wait a single moment longer. The next Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary must use the full weight of our nation’s diplomatic influence to help guarantee freedom of religion for every man and women from Afghanistan to Pakistan, North Korea to Nigeria. Until now the Government has been asleep on this issue. It’s time we woke up.
There can be no doubt that political correctness, especially in the national media, has contributed to a lack of attention and absence of coverage, perhaps because of the misguided perception that Christianity is inextricably linked to past European colonialism. The reality is that the majority of Christians now live in the global south, meaning those facing violence, terror and persecution are also some of the poorest people on Earth.
There is no easy, universal remedy. Those responsible for persecution have many motives - from tyrannical, authoritarian communism that seeks to police every thought and deed to Islamist extremists whose misrepresentation of Islamic texts make them determined to destroy other faiths. Nonetheless, those nations that continue, in effect, to sanction prejudice by refusing to safeguard freedom of religion should face meaningful sanctions, international condemnation and the withdrawal of British aid.
However, we would be naïve to believe that the harassment of Christians is limited to despots in foreign climes. Increasingly, many Christians in Britain feel unable to live out their faith in the public square. Just consider Sarah Kuteh, who after 15 years as a nurse, was dismissed for sharing with her patients how: ‘her faith in Jesus had helped her overcome adversity’. Her Employment Tribunal insisted that: ‘People should not express anything about their own beliefs without it first being raised as a question by someone else’. Or Felix Ngole, who was expelled from Sheffield University for quoting from the Bible in opposition to same-sex marriage. High Court Judge, Rowena Collins Rice, dismissed his appeal, stating: ‘Public religious speech has to be looked at in a regulated context’.
This is not a matter of whether his view is right or wrong, but about his entitlement to hold and share it. Freedom of speech is a defining characteristic of a free society and so such nonsense from the courts undermines beliefs which form the basis of Western Civilisation.
My wife Susan and I were reminded recently how powerful faith can be when we attended the 50th anniversary of the wonderful Lighthouse Church in Spalding. The work done there to help those in need should be an inspiration to everyone.
Freedom of religion does not simply mean protection from violence. Faith lifts our eyes to the beauty and intricacy of a world in which each of us are merely a tiny part. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that all those who wish to live out their lives in accordance with biblical teaching, at home or abroad, can do just that!
Indeed, our society, built on the foundation of Judeo-Christian values, will be an infinitely weaker, duller, more cruel place, should we continue our descent towards secularist moral relativism.