by Robert Lunt
On 6 February MPs debated the persecution of Christians. This followed a report commissioned by Jeremy Hunt and the presentation of the 2020 Open Doors World Watch List – the 50 countries where it’s toughest to be Christian. There is evidence “Christians are the target of about 80% of all acts of religious discrimination or persecution around the world”.
Rother Valley’s new MP, Alexander Stafford, suggested the UK’s aid budget should “help persecuted Christians and give more money to minority groups affected, such as poor Christians in Syria and across the Middle East”. This led to discussion about withholding aid to governments such as Nigeria’s which has “shown little sign of stopping the silent slaughter of the innocent … After years of generous aid the massacre of Christians is escalating”, some 1,300 having been killed in the past year.
China and North Korea featured in the debate. China has closed churches, arrested members, replaced pictures of Jesus with those of the Chinese leader, torn down crosses on church roofs. Human rights defenders have been arrested and tortured; the distraught wife of one said to the police, “His mind is shattered. Just what did you people do to him?”
One MP reported a defector from the North Korean national security agency describing being trained to look for ‘people who remained silent’, ‘people meditating’, ‘smokers or drinkers who suddenly quit’ – all potential signs of Christians. Severe recrimination, often leading to death, follows.
A prominent contributor to the debate was Fiona Bruce – not the newsreader but the MP for Congleton. She spoke with deep feeling of how in 2016 the Select Committee on International Development visited Nigeria to review the Department for International Development’s (DFID) programmes there. Despite her appeal, the DFID staff declined to listen to the concerns of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) about how Christians were being targeted and “killings could not simply be put down to local disputes between herdsmen and settlers”. Ms Bruce called for a report on what the DFID staff are now doing to address persecution of Christians – especially in light of the kidnap and murder in January of a leader of CAN and the videoed beheading of 10 Christians on Boxing Day.
The challenge of Christian persecution has been forcibly put to the DFID and the Foreign Office. Will there be action before the Lord comes?