British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt blamed 'political correctness' for failure to tackle the problem
The worldwide persecution of Christians is at near “genocide” level, a report for the British government has said
The review, led by the Anglican Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, said Christianity is set to be “wiped out” from parts of the Middle East as people are killed or forced to flee.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who commissioned the report last Christmas, blamed “political correctness” for the failure of governments to tackle the issue.
Speaking in Addis Ababa, Hunt said: “I think we’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
“I think not just the Bishop of Truro’s report but obviously what happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday has woken everyone up with an enormous shock.
“I think there are various reasons for this but the report makes it very clear that there are different reasons in different parts of the world why persecution of Christians in specific happens and, combined together, they’ve crept up on us.”
The interim report said that while various religious groups suffer across the world, Christians are the most persecuted. In Palestine, they now make up just 1.5 per cent of the population, while in Iraq numbers have dropped from 1.5 million before 2013 to fewer than 120,000.
“Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity,” Bishop Mounstephen wrote.
“In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”
“The main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is exodus. Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest.”
Jeremy Hunt said politicians must not be afraid to speak out on the issue.
“I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into to as colonisers.
“That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue – the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic. ‘
“What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20 per cent – now it’s 5 per cent.”
The full findings of the report will be published in the summer.