Henry Smith MP has given his support in Parliament to the launch of the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
Almost 100 parliamentarians attended or were represented at the launch, where speakers included Michael*, a Christian businessman from Egypt, Hannah* from Pakistan, and Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, who called on parliamentarians to act on behalf of persecuted Christians.
“A few years ago I visited Iraqi refugees, which was cause for reflection to sit down in people’s tents and speak directly with individuals affected as a result of the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars.
“The trip gave me a greater insight into the horrors of Daesh/ISIS and went to highlight the importance of the freedoms we enjoy in this country.
“Open Doors undertake important work highlighting the parts of the world where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.
“I’m grateful for the messages I’ve received from Crawley residents about the important work of this organisation which I’ll continue to support.”
Christians in Egypt and Turkey face unprecedented levels of persecution and suppression according to figures revealed in the World Watch List; the annual independently-audited ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
Every country is scored and given persecution points for restrictions on private, family, community, national and church life as well as violent acts. Last year over 200 Christians were driven out of their homes in Egypt and 128 were killed for their faith.
North Korea remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Believers are forced to worship in secret; if they are discovered they are taken to labour camps. An estimated 70,000 Christians are believed to be in these camps.
Last year, North Korea saw a further increase in the threat to Christians; the North Korean regime has been monitoring the border with China closely and raiding safe houses where Christian converts have sought refuge. Christians who are discovered are sent back to North Korean camps where they face appalling conditions and are subject to torture, and many die.
The day before the launch, Henry hailed the work of Open Doors in the House of Commons. On 16th January, speaking to introduce his British Indian Ocean Territory (Citizenship) Bill, which seeks to provide British Overseas Territories Citizenship to descendants of those done wrong by the Harold Wilson administration five decades ago, Henry said;
“I want to praise the Government’s wider work in the field of human rights—in particular, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s four main priorities of tackling modern slavery; defending freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression; ending inequality and discrimination; and promoting democracy.
“The work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spearheaded by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, is vital and deserves our support. British work on these issues throughout the world—particularly with tomorrow’s launch in Parliament of the 2018 World Watch List in mind—represents what we stand for.
“I am sure that all in this House would agree with the salience of such values forming a vital part of our foreign policy. However, the treatment of the Chagossian people by successive British Governments remains a shameful aspect of our past and indeed still today in the present.”
* Names changed for security reasons