UK: Bishop leading FCO Review shocked by scale of problem.

The Anglican Bishop leading an independent review into Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) support for persecuted Christians has described being shocked by the scale of problem being unearthed by the report.

Bishop Philip Mounstephen of Truro, who was asked by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to lead the independent review, said: “Through my previous experience of the global church in Asia and Africa I was aware of the terrible reality of persecution, but to be honest in preparing this report I’ve been truly shocked by the severity, scale and scope of the problem.”

According to the interim report of the independent review into Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians worldwide, which was published today (Friday 3rd May 2019), one third of the world’s population suffers from religious persecution in some form, with Christians being the most persecuted group.

Bishop Mounstephen said: “It forces us in the West to ask ourselves some hard questions, not the least of which is this – why have we been so blind to this situation for so long?…

“The oft-cited Western mantra that we attend to ‘need not creed’ disguises this fundamental fact. Put simply your creed might put you in much greater need – and we cannot be blind to that.”

In the introduction to the interim review Bishop Mounstephen thanked a number of organisations, including Aid to the Church in Need, for their “expert input” into the report.

Among the key research findings drawn together by the review are:

  • The Pew Research Center concluded that in 2016 Christians were targeted in 144 countries, a rise from 125 in 2015.
  • Aid to the Church in Need have highlighted the increasing threat from “ultra-nationalism” in countries such as China and India – growing world powers – as well as from Islamist militia groups.
  • NGO Open Doors revealed in its World Watch List Report on anti-Christian oppression that “approximately 245 million Christians living in the top 50 countries suffer high levels of persecution or worse”.

The full report is due to be presented to Mr Hunt by the end of June and will assess the quality of the response of the FCO to situations of Christain persecution, and make recommendations for changes in both policy and practice.

The interim report was intended to map the nature and extent of the problem.