Per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians is mod­ern-day ‘geno­cide’

Daily Mail - - News - From Jack Doyle As­so­ciate Edi­tor in Ad­dis Ababa

CHRIS­TIANS are ‘ by far the most per­se­cuted’ reli­gious group and are en­dur­ing what amounts to geno­cide in some parts of the world, a re­port con­cluded.

They are be­ing driven out of the Mid­dle East in a mod­ern-day ex­o­dus that means the re­li­gion could be wiped out in parts ‘where its roots go back fur­thest’, the study com­mis­sioned by the For­eign Of­fice found.

And the re­port by the Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Moun­stephen, found ‘shock­ing’ ev­i­dence that the per­se­cu­tion is worse to­day than ever.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt last night blamed ‘po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness’ for a fail­ure to con­front the op­pres­sion of Chris­tians, which he called the ‘for­got­ten per­se­cu­tion’.

Mr Hunt said he would use Bri­tain’s diplo­matic in­flu­ence to de­fend Chris­tians where they were un­der at­tack for their faith, and ad­mit­ted the prob­lem was some­times ne­glected due to ‘mis­placed worry’ that con­fronting it would be in­ter­preted as ‘colo­nial­ist’.

The bishop said the study found Chris­tians are ‘ha­rassed’ in more coun­tries than any other reli­gious group, and es­pe­cially in pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and North Africa. His re­port found 245mil­lion Chris­tians now suf­fer ‘high lev­els of per­se­cu­tion’ in 50 coun­tries, a rise of 30mil­lion year on year.

In par­tic­u­lar, they have been at­tacked by ex­trem­ist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east­ern Nige­ria and the Philip­pines, as well as in In­dia and China. He added that the Mid­dle East is wit­ness­ing the ‘dec­i­ma­tion of some of the faith group’s old­est and most en­dur­ing com­mu­ni­ties’ and called for ‘ur­gent govern­ment sup­port’.

A fi­nal ver­sion of the in­quiry, com­mis­sioned by Mr Hunt last year, will be re­leased this sum­mer and will cover the Easter Sun­day mas­sacre in Sri Lanka.

Speak­ing in the Ethiopian cap­i­tal Ad­dis Ababa dur­ing his five­day tour of Africa, Mr Hunt – who is a com­mit­ted Chris­tian – said: ‘I think we’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians. I think we have shied away from talk­ing about Chris­tian per­se­cu­tion be­cause we are a Chris­tian coun­try and we have a colo­nial past.

‘I think it is partly be­cause of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness we have avoided con­fronting this is­sue. I think there is a mis­placed worry that it is colo­nial­ist to talk about a re­li­gion that was as­so­ci­ated with colo­nial pow­ers.’

Dr Moun­stephen said: ‘Through my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence... I was aware of the ter­ri­ble re­al­ity of per­se­cu­tion. But to be hon­est in pre­par­ing this re­port, I’ve been truly shocked by the sever­ity, scale and scope of the prob­lem.

‘It forces us in the West to ask our­selves some hard ques­tions, not the least of which is this: Why have we been so blind to this sit­u­a­tion for so long?’

He said it is ‘ironic’ that ‘Western sec­u­lar­ists, Is­lamic ex­trem­ists and au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes’ share the same mis­con­cep­tion that Chris­tian­ity is ‘an ex­pres­sion of white, Western privilege’, ar­gu­ing:

‘We have avoided this is­sue’’

‘In fact, Chris­tian­ity is pri­mar­ily a phe­nom­e­non of the global South and the global poor.’

Dr Moun­stephen added that cli­mate change, along with deny­ing the right to reli­gious be­lief, are the big­gest ‘ex­is­ten­tial, global threats to hu­man flour­ish­ing’. He said: ‘We are quite rightly be­com­ing sen­si­tised to the for­mer. We must ur­gently at­tend to the lat­ter.’

He said: ‘Tak­ing this is­sue se­ri­ously will al­low the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice to do its job bet­ter be­cause it im­pinges on key is­sues such as trade, se­cu­rity and gen­der equal­ity.’

AS one of the coun­try’s most se­nior politi­cians, Jeremy Hunt de­serves plau­dits for spot­light­ing the ap­palling ‘for­got­ten’ per­se­cu­tion of the world’s Chris­tians.

A re­port or­dered by the For­eign Sec­re­tary finds some an­cient Chris­tian pop­u­la­tions are be­ing driven from their home­lands in what amounts to ‘geno­cide’. Many suf­fer ruth­less ex­pul­sions and killings – such as the Easter Sun­day bomb­ings in Sri Lanka.

Often, mis­placed po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and post- colo­nial shame stop us from dis­cussing per­se­cu­tion – for fear of of­fend­ing other faiths, Mr Hunt says.

But it is vi­tal that all re­li­giously-mo­ti­vated atroc­i­ties – whether against Mus­lims, Jews or oth­ers – are brought to light.

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