U.K. launches program to champion religious liberty abroad
Posted: 2020-08-01 08:47:56    (see more from www.wnd.com)

A new government initiative to establish Britain as "the global leader in championing freedom of religion and belief" has been established.

The Premier Christian News reports the new Freedom of Religion and Belief Forum was established following a landmark report on persecution of Christians around the globe.

The Right Rev. Philip Mounstephen, bishop of Truro in the United Kingdom, has been named the chairman.

WND reported last winter the report, "Bishop of Truro's Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] Support for Persecuted Christians," concluded "today, Christians constitute by far the most widely persecuted religion."

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It found Christians "have been harassed in more countries than any other religious group and have suffered harassment in many of the heavily Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa."

Some 245 million Christians live in the top 50 countries for persecution, and they suffer "high levels" or worse. Previously, only one country, North Korea, was classified as having "extreme" persecution. Now there are 11.

The report calls for a U.N. Security Council resolution urging Islamic nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa to do more to protect Christians. And it recommends sending U.N. observers to monitor the effectiveness of security measures, imposing sanctions on regimes found to have committed "serious human rights abuses" against religious minorities and creating a Magna Carta Fund dedicated to their protection.

The Telegraph of London reported the government is also "rolling out mandatory training to help staff at home and abroad better identify persecution in all its forms as well as adopting a definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution, similar to those applied to Islamophobia and antisemitism."

Baroness Goldie, minister of state at the Ministry of Defense, speaking during a foreign affairs debate in the House of Lords, said the government intends "to implement the recommendations in full."

According to the Christian Institute at the time, the report by Mounstephen found "the persecution of Christians is so extreme it amounts to genocide in some parts of the world."

The Premier report said the British government announced it was commissioning the FoRB Forum "to ensure that the U.K. plays a leading role in global efforts to advance religious freedom or belief around the world."

It will be launched in September.

The bishop said recently: "In one of his first speeches to the House of Commons on the slave trade, William Wilberforce said this: 'You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.' My hope is that the U.K. Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum will enable us all to look steadily at this egregious problem of our time, not to let it be overlooked, and together to face it down."

The group will include representatives of civil groups, non-governmental organizations, academic groups and the government.

The forum will be able to recommend sanctions against individuals or nations.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Christmas address to highlight Christian persecution around the world.

He said that for millions, Christmas Day would be marked "in private, in secret, perhaps even in a prison cell."

"As prime minister, that’s something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and we will defend your right to practice your faith," he said.