In Parliament last week I attended the launch of the Open Doors World Watch List; a powerful report published each year highlighting the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Alongside 122 other Members of Parliament – the highest number ever to attend this event – I heard from moving speakers about the experiences of Christians in the 50 countries where the greatest persecution is threatened and enacted. A total of 260 million Christians are at risk of persecution in these 50 states; an increase of six per cent on the year before.
One of the speakers was the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, who talked about the over 5,500 churches destroyed or closed down in China, and more than 1,300 believers murdered in Nigeria over the past 12 months.
North Korea is at the ‘top’ of this year’s list. Open Doors estimate that there are around 300,000 Christians in the country, out of a population of over 25 million. Of course, the difficulty in compiling such a figure comes from people under that regime needing to keep their faith a secret.
In recent days I took part in the Queen’s Speech debate on Britain’s place in the world, and spoke about the importance of our role as an ambitious and outward-looking nation, continuing the promotion of liberty around the globe.
The Government remains committed to implementing the recommendations put forward by the Bishop of Truro on the persecution of Christians.
These include ensuring British embassies and high commissions in relevant countries should deliver tailored responses to any violations of freedom of religion or belief, and consideration of sanctions on perpetrators of serious human rights abuses against religious minorities including Christians.
I remain grateful to the Crawley residents who have contacted me with regard to this important issue. Our country must not shy away from standing up for such freedoms.
Henry Smith MP