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UK News

Christian MP calls for Jim Shannon to be new Religious freedom envoy in Westminster debate on Christian persecution

by Cara Bentley

A debate on the persecution of Christians has taken place in Westminster, detailing the steps needed to achieve the recommendations of the Bishop of Truro review.

The Bishop of Truro was asked by then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2018 to write a review of the experience of Christians around the world and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (now FCDO) response to their situations.

Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen discovered the atrocities of persecution and discriminatory laws that many Christians have to live with and made 22 recommendations from his research, such as that civil servants who deal with diplomacy should be given religious literacy training and that sanctions be imposed on countries who are abusing the human rights of people of faith.

The Government accepted these recommendations in full, with Boris Johnson giving his support.

Jeremy Hunt and the Bishop of Truro

On Wednesday, a debate took place to discuss how far these recommendations had been implemented and how best to achieve the rest.

The debate was led by Rehman Chishti MP (Gillingham and Rainham) who, until recently, was the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion and Belief, having stood down because he disagreed with the Government's Internal Markets Bill for Brexit.

David Linden, the SNP MP for Glasgow East, said he didn't often feel proud to be a Westminster MP, as he favours Scottish independence, but that it was, debates like this, that made him feel proud to join with other politicians from the UK.

Mr Linden proposed a candidate for Mr Chishti's replacement, saying: "one issue that I want to raise today with the minister is the fact that there has not been a replacement for the honourable gentleman from Gillingham and Rainham as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy. I do think that this is a crucial rule and I would urge the Government to fill that position as soon as possible to ensure that this vital work can continue.

"In all seriousness, and I appreciate that as a nationalist MP that the Prime Minister is unlikely to take advice from me - and probably rightly so in many occasions - but the one bit of advice that I would genuinely offer to the Government, and I do it with all sincerity, is if it is considering appointing another MP to be the Special Envoy that looks very seriously at considering my honourable friend, the member for Strangford (DUP MP Jim Shannon), who does so much work in this field and we know there are examples of MPs from other parties being appointed as Special Envoys but I would ask the minister to take that back to the prime minister and consider that my honourable friend is such a champion in this field and I think would be an excellent candidate for the post."

Jim Shannon is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion and Belief, a Christian himself and often speaks up about the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

Jim Shannon MP 

Stephen Doughty also lamented the fact the role had not yet been filled and said it was crucial to appoint someone.

Regarding the recommendations, Mr Chishti told fellow MPs that 17 of the 22 suggestions were either implemented or had been 'progressed' and explained that there will be a freedom of religion conference hosted by the UK in person in 2022.

He thanked the Prime Minister for his support as well as the work of religious freedoms charities Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Aid to the Church in Need and Open Doors.

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