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Charity praises parliament's decision to support review recommendations on persecuted Christians

MPs voted unanimously in support of Rev Canon Philip Mounstephen's recommendations on Thursday, to protect the rights of Christians suffering victimisation.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan said "the Government has decided to accept every recommendation in full" and pledged to "put Freedom of Religion or Belief at the heart of Foreign Office culture".

Release International were part of the Bishop's research team that contributed to the report.

Release International spokesman, Andrew Boyd told Premier they couldn't have hoped for a better outcome from Thursday's debate: "We were absolutely delighted by it. You couldn't have wanted more actually - the debate in Parliament yesterday was powerful, it was moving, MPs commented on the depth of that research which was able to show conclusively that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today."

Boyd remarked that the decision to accept all the recommendations was a step forward for the UK.

"Britain has always been a champion of human rights and religious freedom. But as Jeremy Hunt himself who commissioned this report said, we tend to be a bit of a slave to political correctness when it comes to championing the rights of Christians as well. Now this redresses that balance and it's extremely encouraging," he said.

The recommendations that have been agreed include imposing sanctions and linking aid and trade to religious freedom together with a new framework for recognising and dealing with persecution.

Boyd said training of diplomats and civil servants and the appointment of a special envoy, to define cases of persecution more effectively, would also be implemented under the Bishops' recommendations.

The scale of the persecution towards Christians highlighted in the report amazed MPs, according to Boyd.

He continued: "What's so significant here is that you have a government that is saying that we want to champion the freedom of faith and put that front and centre at the very heart of government policy."

When asked about Tory MP Rehman Chishti's call for the UK's multi-billion-pound aid budget to be used to help persecuted Christian communities around the world, Boyd responded: "This report is not actually prejudiced towards Christians, it is just readdressing a balance by saying that there should be a connection between the aid that the UK is giving and the way these countries are treating their Christians, but it's about freedom of religion or belief, including the freedom to not believe, for absolutely everybody.

"It has to be a broad brush."

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both pledged to put the issue at the forefront of government policy and with a new Prime Minister set to take over next week, Release International have said that they will continue to press the government to take action.

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