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Westminster debate addresses Christian persecution

by Tola Mbakwe

Twenty-one backbenchers from all political parties joined in the Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday. They talked about a motion tabled by the Christian politician Jim Shannon.

The DUP MP for Strangford explained the role of conflict in persecution.

He said: "When religion is not necessarily the driver of global conflict, conflict often manifests along religious lines and those who suffer violence are often targeted because of their beliefs or because of the faith group of which they identify."

The MPs agreed that Christian persecution was not a new development, but one that is getting worse in different ways.

Shannon added: "Even when certain groups don't experience violence, they can often be discriminated against in terms of work, of education, of health care and many other ways that can limit their chances of improving their lives."

The consensus among the minsters was the British government was putting in efforts to tackle Christian persecution around the world, but more could be done.

Martyn Eden, Premier's political editor, attended the debate.

He said on Premier's News Hour: "The general feeling around the debate was that the Foreign Office is making a better show of how they help ordinary citizens suffering persecution to cope.

"They've given every embassy a working kit to know how to understand the issues and interpret them and to respond to them.

"The problem they identified was that the Department for International Aid and Development is not at the same level of preparedness to help victims of persecution and some of the worst persecution happens in the countries to which Britain gives large amounts of aid."

The idea was not to withhold aid from the countries, but to better equip British embassies to persuade the government of those countries to take the issue more seriously and to do all they can to bring a more distinctively British perspective on persecution.

Christian ministers working in the Foreign and Commonwealth office as well as the Department for International Aid said they would work together to take a more serious approach to religious persecution.

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