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PA
World News

New report launched in Parliament warns of dramatic decline of Christian presence in Middle East

The Persecuted and Forgotten 2019 report provides an up-to-date overview attacks against Christians over the past two years and details the state of human rights violations towards Christian groups across 12 countries of concern including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China and Iraq.

The report is the first of its kind since the Bishop of Truro's Independent Review for the Foreign Office.

One key finding that emerges from ACN's report is the dramatic decline in the presence of Christians across core middle-east countries, including Syria and Iraq due to persecution.

It estimates a 90% drop in the number of Christians in Iraq over the past 15 years bringing numbers to below 150,000.

As a result of these findings ACN have issued a motion for parliament to take action.

Co-author of the report, John Pontifex called on MPs present at the launch to ensure the issue of Christian persecution remains of vital importance to the British government by signing a motion for debate on the topic.

He said: "We are asking parliamentarians and MPs to support the early day motion being circulated, which asks people to enable the government and call on them to act on the Bishop of Truro's recommendations which it said it would support to enable action, not just for Christians, but for all minorities."

Rehman Chishti, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief welcomed the charities findings and praised the work of parliamentarians, who have championed freedom of religion over the years.

He went on to celebrate ACN's involvement in providing support to the family of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi who was held on death row for eight years on charges of blasphemy before being released earlier this year.

"What ACN did in that situation, supporting them morally supporting them advocating their case, across the house, across the boundaries internationally, was absolutely outstanding, and that's just one case, but there's many more."

He went on to say that the government has a responsibility to use the diplomatic relations it has established in the countries highlighted in the report to hold countries to account and champion the rights of freedom of religion or belief.

"What the report persecuted and forgotten highlights is that there is a real issue with regards to freedom of religion where individuals are able to practice their faith openly and freely."

"We need to use our extensive diplomatic relations to ensure that freedom of religion or belief is pushed at every level, so every citizen can practice their faith openly and freely in line with article 18 of the Universal Declaration, which these countries have all signed up to.

"As especial envoy to the Prime Minister, I've been advocating with partners and diplomats to say you signed up to the universal declaration now we need to put that into practice."

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