A new report prepared for the British government says Christianity is “by far the most widely persecuted religion” and recommends the government become the worldwide leader in promoting religious liberty.
“How grave does this situation have to become before we act?” the report says.
The 176-page report on persecuted Christians was commission by Jeremy Hunt, British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, and prepared by the Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen, bishop of Truro. An interim report was released in May.
The final report outlines the problem of the persecution of Christians worldwide before listing recommendations on how to help the universal church. It was released July 4.
“It is estimated that one-third of the world’s population suffers from religious persecution in some form, with Christians being the most persecuted group,” the report says, quoting data showing that in 2016, Christians were targeted in 144 countries – an increase from 125 in 2015.
In some regions, the report says, the “level and nature of persecution” of Christians is “arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide” adopted by the United Nations. It references killings by ISIS and Boko Haram.
“The main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is internal displacement and exodus,” the report says. “Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest.”
Boko Haram’s killings already have met the definition, the report says. The group has a stated goal of killing Christians to establish an Islamic state. It already has killed thousands of believers.
“Boko Haram activity in the region meets the tests for it to be considered as genocide against Christians according to the definition adopted by the UN.”
The report was prepared for the British government but says of other nations: “The need for governments to give increasing priority and specific targeted support to this faith community is not only necessary but increasingly urgent.”
The report lists more than 20 recommendations, including that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office become the “global leader in championing” freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), particularly within the U.N. Human Rights Council, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe.
“The freedom to think for oneself and to choose to believe what one chooses to believe, without fear of coercion, is the most fundamental human right, and is indeed the one on which so many others depend: because if one is not free to think or believe how can one order one’s life in any other way one chooses?” the report asks. “And yet everywhere in our world today we see this right questioned, compromised and threatened. It is a grave threat which must be resisted – both because it is an evil in itself, and because it threatens so much else.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Rawpixel
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.