On Thursday The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman MP, started by reminding the House of Commons that Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt requested the Bishop of Truro to conduct an independent review into the persecution of Christians around the world, from which the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen will produce a report.
Jeremy Lefroy MP pointed out that the numbers attending the launch of Open Doors’ latest World Watch List on Wednesday displayed high levels of interest among politicians in the persecution of Christians.
He asked the MP for Meriden to ensure that the Bishop of Truro will tell members of the House about the findings of his independent review.
Spelman replied: “I’m delighted to give my honorable friend that assurance. 40 countries out of the 50 are locations where Christians experience very high or extreme levels of persecution and I shall go from this place, Mr. Speaker, to a meeting at the foreign office, with the foreign secretary and the Bishop and I will make that request directly to him.”
Sir Desmond Swayne MP inquired about the readiness of the Department for International Development to intervene in persecution.
The Church Commissioner for MPs explained that there was openness to increasing religious literacy from the foreign office: “We were given assurance by the minister that this would be impressed on officials.”
Replying to a question from Bob Blackman MP about Christians in Pakistan, Spelman mentioned Asia Bibi: “I’m sure, like me, he would have heard the case of Asia Bibi raised to the Prime Minister yesterday in this house but I think it is very important that not only we look out for a solution for her and her family that assures her protection but remember that what we do on behalf of Christians in other countries can impact others around the world in the same way. So, persecution of Christians in Pakistan is high on our agenda.”
Other questions were asked by the MPs Kevin Foster, Henry Smith and Dianna Johnson, who asked what the foreign secretary intends to do about the problem.
The Church Commissioner said Jeremy Hunt has represented by bringing in the Bishop of Truro to do the review and that churches overseas will assess their collaboration with British or foreign diplomatic missions and the protection of Christians.
She added that they will hear from staff from the civil service who is approached by churches seeking help.