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Church News

Editor's Reflection: 2019

It was this time last year when my friend Mervyn Thomas was appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in the Queen's New Year honours list - a worthy award for someone who has worked tirelessly to defend the freedoms of persecuted Christians around the world for 40 years as founder and CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

While congratulating him, he told me how he'd recently met with the then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to talk about what the UK should be doing to help the issue.

That meeting would be the starting point of an independent inquiry looking into the treatment of believers around the world.

Led by Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, the report published in the summer suggested 80 per cent of religiously motivated attacks around the world were aimed at Christians.

It produced a list of recommendations to bring about change, including the introduction of a fund to support persecuted Christians and for the Government to impose sanctions on countries with poor records on religious freedom.

This was a massive step forward which would suggest the UK was beginning to wake up to the seriousness of the situation.

And serious it is. Hundreds of thousands of Christians face persecution every year.

The report was published just weeks after a series of bomb blasts hit churches in Sri Lanka celebrating Easter Sunday, months after Asia Bibi was finally freed after a decade behind bars on death row accused of blasphemy and in a year which saw churches demolished in China and 1,000 Christians killed in Nigeria because of their faith.

The recommendations were backed by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has vowed to implement them.

But what now? While the issue hit the headlines this year, it could easily fade away from the spotlight.

Jesus speaks in Luke of coming to free the oppressed and see the captives released. Wouldn't it be great to see our country taking on that mantra, not just now - but for years to come?

For that to happen - we all have a role to play in ensuring it wasn't just 2019 that we talked about our persecuted brothers and sisters.

Here at Premier we often speak to charities like Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors and Release International and it's often the same advice: pray, write to your MP, make people aware of what's going on.

In 2020, we're committing to playing our part. We'll continue to speak to MPs about what they're doing, we'll equip you to pray and we'll cover as many stories as we can in the next 12 months. 

Will you commit to making a difference too?

 

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