Christians: Persecution - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:41 pm ar 25 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Carey of Clifton Lord Carey of Clifton Crossbench 7:41, 25 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Foster, for tabling this important Question. I thank her for the excellent review that she has already given of what is going on around the world.

It is manifestly clear that some Christian groups are unfairly treated, abused, murdered and discriminated against in many parts of the world. I am patron of Barnabas Aid, which works in many contexts around the world, bringing aid and support to minority Christian groups and refugees. The estimate of Barnabas Aid of, for example, Christian violence in Nigeria since 2009 is that some 45,000 Christians have been murdered. This is to say nothing of the violence and everyday marginalisation of Christian communities in many other parts of the world. In what has been dubbed the ultimate year of elections, with some 64 national elections taking place in 2024, Christians viscerally fear the outcome in some countries, in stark contrast to the much less existential nature of our general election in the United Kingdom this year.

I do not think we can properly pursue this question without considering another question alongside it, which the noble Baroness, Lady Foster, touched upon: namely, does the United Kingdom value its foundational faith any longer? We seem to go out of our way to avoid the use of the word Christian and to speak of “British” values, as if they are a group of virtues standing alone. We may remember that, in 2007, the European Union decided not to mention the Christian roots of Europe at its 50th anniversary. Pope Benedict XVI retorted that this was a form of apostasy against itself. He went on to show that, in culture, landscape, history, law and values, the roots of Europe, and of course of the United Kingdom, are undeniably Christian. We should not be ashamed of declaring so.

My argument takes me directly back to the Question of the noble Baroness, Lady Foster: what are we doing to help those Christian people abroad whose commitment to our values leads them to be persecuted? Reference has already been made to the Bishop of Truro’s independent review of 2019, undertaken at the invitation of the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jeremy Hunt. The review showed the horrifying scale and extent of the suffering of minority Christian groups in places as diverse as Iraq, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Of course, it is important to recognise that we do not limit our concern to Christians only. We should care for everybody. However, the clear evidence is that the name of Christianity is a label of discrimination and suffering. Noble Lords may remember that the Truro report was welcomed by the Times. In the editorial leader column, it was greeted in the following way:

The West must be ready to support the Christian faith. That, rather than embarrassment, has to be the starting point of our necessary conversations with … followers of other faiths”.

In conclusion, I offer one thought and ask the Minister—a man we deeply respect—a question. The thought is that valuing the faith that the United Kingdom has received, and which has shaped us in so many ways, does not limit our generosity and welcome to other faiths. To repeat what the noble Baroness, Lady Foster, has said, I would be grateful if the Minister could inform us of how many of the 22 recommendations in that review have been implemented, and what is holding up the remaining ones.