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PA
UK News

Charity delighted by PM's call to protect religious freedom

The Prime Minister said on Friday, the UK will do "everything possible" to champion religious freedoms.

In a statement which highlighted the plight of persecuted Christians he promised to implement recommendations recently made by the Bishop of Truro on protecting people from persecution.

Mr Johnson committed to using the UK's "global reach" to help people facing the same issues elsewhere in the world.

In his statement he said: "We will do everything possible to champion these freedoms and protect civilians in armed conflict, including religious, ethnic or other minorities."

Release International were one of the organisations that contributed to the research for a Foreign Office report which was conducted by Bishop Philip Mounstephen.

Speaking to Premier about the significance of Mr Johnson's commitment, Release spokesman Andrew Boyd said: "Religious freedom is the most fundamental freedom you could possibly have and goes right to the heart of government policy.

"If you don't have freedom of religion, you don't have freedom of belief. If you don't have freedom of belief, you don't have freedom to think ,you don't have freedom to speak, you don't have freedom to associate with other people."

"This is the best news we can hope to hear."

The report highlighted that 80 percent of religious persecution across the world is experienced by Christians.

Boyd went on to say: "The British government and our new prime minister today is saying that persecution has to stop and Release International is cock-a-hoop about that!"

The recommendations the Prime Minister has committed to, include establishing a fund dedicated to helping persecuted Christians and imposing sanctions on those who violate freedom or religious rights.

Boyd says the sanctions are a positive move forward that obligate British diplomats to address the issue of religious freedom with countries who may have avoided the topic in the past.

The government is offering funding of £200,000 to help with research.

This "modest" amount won't go very far according to Boyd but he says it's a good start.

Boyd says that although the news from the Prime Minister is positive there is still a lot to be done to tackle the growing intolerance to Christians across the globe.

"All the indicators show that persecution against Christians is rising. Part of this is a rise in ultra-nationalism."

"In India there's a rise in militant Hinduism which says, if you're Indian, you need to be Hindu, and nothing else will be tolerated. If we look at Pakistan, an Islamic country we've seen many Christians and others being accused of blasphemy."

He went on to say that Christians everywhere can play a part in fighting religious persecution, regardless of whether it directly effects their communities.

"We're not called to be spectators. Jesus taught us to pray, Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

"This is an opportunity to pray for our government, it is an opportunity to engage - we can engage in advocacy, we can engage in prayer. But I would say that it begins with really hearing and understanding the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world."

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