The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has written 40 letters to persecuted Christians across the globe to mark Easter.
The letters, which have been sent to individual Christians as well as Church groups and leaders in countries where Christians suffer the most serious persecution, expressed the UK government’s solidarity with those whom the Foreign Secretary described as “the world’s most persecuted group”.
In his Easter Message Mr Hunt said that Easter started with persecution “but ends in salvation”.
Countries that persecute people because of their religion also abused other human rights as well, the Foreign Secretary said.
“So this Easter, whether you’re a Christian or you have another faith, or no faith at all, spare a thought for the 245 million Christians facing persecution worldwide - as did another very famous person who we remember this weekend,” he continued.
The first letter from the Foreign Secretary was sent to a 90-year-old Dutch missionary, Brother Andrew, founder of Christian NGO Open Doors. During the height of the Cold War, Brother Andrew risked his life to support persecuted Christians by smuggling Bibles to them.
In his letter to Brother Andrew Mr Hunt said that, as a Christian, free to practise his faith in line with his conscience, he was “appalled” at the plight of the many Christians worldwide currently facing persecution as a result of their belief.
“I want you to know that the UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world,” he wrote.
“Freedom of Religion or Belief is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must be respected. People from all faiths or none should be free to practice as they wish. I will continue to make this case for the millions who suffer as a result of their beliefs and British diplomats will continue to advocate for all those denied the right to practise their faith.”
In a statement the Foreign Office said that the UK’s foreign policy response “has not always reflected the suffering of persecuted Christians”, and noted that last year saw 245 million Christians persecuted, and on average 300 Christians were killed every month because of their faith.
“That is why the Foreign Secretary has commissioned an independent, global review into the persecution of Christians led by the Bishop of Truro, Rt Reverend Philip Mounstephen,” a spokesman said.
In a separate message the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, said Easter is a time of hope and renewal.
“However, as we come together to celebrate Easter it is also a time when we remember the many millions of Christians around the world who suffer simply because of practising their faith.
Let me assure you that as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, I am absolutely committed not only to stand up for the persecuted, but also to protect and strengthen everyone’s fundamental human right to practice their faith or belief, or indeed to have no faith at all.
And let us not forget, as we read in the Gospel of John: ‘Dear friends let us love one another for love comes from God.’
And in that spirit of love and humanity, from my family to yours, I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Easter.”
For more read Where Christianity fights for its life by Rupert Shortt