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Ann Widdecombe to champion rights of persecuted Christians

Ann Widdecombe onstage at the 2011 National Television Awards (Yui Mok/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Ann Widdecombe has been named as an envoy on religious freedom for the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, it was announced today.

The former Conservative government minister and star of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing will work as Christian minorities’ champion for the charity, which is directly under the Holy See.

In the role, Miss Widdecombe will advise the charity on its work for persecuted and other suffering Christians, drawing on her wide media and political experience.

The post has a global remit and Miss Widdecombe may travel to trouble spots where Christians are persecuted.

Engaged in regular meetings with Aid to the Church in Need staff, she will raise awareness of the issues surrounding violence and intimidation of religious minorities including Christians.

The announcement coincides with the launch of the 2011 edition of ACN’s Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith.

The report provides an audit of human rights abuses against Christians, declaring that persecution against them has worsened in two-thirds of the countries where religious freedom is denied the most.

According to reports, at least 75 percent of religious persecution is directed against Christians.

Miss Widdecombe said: “I have become increasingly alarmed by reports of violence and acts of intimidation against Christians.”

“We in this country are rightly concerned to protect the rights of minorities over here. We cannot therefore turn a blind eye to the plight of minorities in other parts of the world. In many cases, those suffering most are Christians.”

“It is time to put our heads above the parapet and speak up in the name of Christians suffering for their faith and I am delighted to support the work of Aid to the Church in Need which is doing excellent work to help persecuted Christians.”

As a Catholic charity directly under Pope Benedict XVI, Aid to the Church in Need supports 5,000 projects every year in 140 countries, helping to build churches, training seminarians, helping Christian refugees and providing Child’s Bibles and other Christian education and media programmes.