Now that Parliament has risen for summer recess, we thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on all that has happened as we have, together, been speaking out for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. There is so much to thank God for and be encouraged by.
Thank you so much for joining us in highlighting the plight of our persecuted family, and for your continued support in speaking out and advocating for religious freedom around the world.
It has no doubt been a busy year in UK Politics, from the ongoing Covid-19 focus, the Russian/Ukraine war, and the new leadership contest.
With so much going on, it can be difficult to ensure the persecuted church and the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) stays squarely on the agenda. That’s why Open Doors has been taking creative approaches in Parliament and with Government over recent months.
In case you missed it – here’s what we have been focusing on, and how you can continue to support the right to FoRB in the future.
This update includes:
Earlier in March this year, as the rest of the world gave attention to the rights of women, we too took the opportunity to highlight the specific religious persecution that women around the world experience because of both their gender and their faith. We hosted a panel event for MPs, gave material to MPs for a debate in Parliament, launched a new report, and asked MPs to sign a parliamentary petition focusing on Nigerian Christian women. In total, 39 MPs signed the parliamentary petition from across the political spectrum. This is great as it means more and more parliamentarians are being made aware of this issue in order to champion it.
Years of speaking out on this issue is making a real difference. Our advocacy team didn't just supply briefing materials for MPs in the debate to mark International Women's day, but the language with which we have been presenting the issue of the persecution of Christian women and girls was used to frame and set the terms of the debate. This shows great impact!
Most recently, many will recall that we had the opportunity to raise our voices at the 2022 FoRB Ministerial held in London.
It was a busy week but really fruitful. Invited by you, many MPs attended different parts of the event and were able to hear about what more can be done to promote and protect the right to religious freedom. As an Advocacy team, we had a stand for delegates to stop by and chat to us and receive a copy of the 2022 World Watch List report. Notably, Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary, came to the stand and looked through the 2022 World Watch List report with our team.
We also hosted two panel events. The first was co-hosted with Aid to the Church in Need on Gender-Specific Religious Persecution (GSRP). This was followed by an event focusing on Nigeria in conjunction with PSJ UK (International Organisation for Peace & Social Justice). Tirham* – a trauma counsellor in the country, who also featured at the GSRP event – spoke alongside Open Doors’ regional expert, Illia Djadi, and Dr Richard Ikiebe.
Finally, we launched a new report titled ‘Digital Persecution: the new frontier for freedom of religion or belief’, which looks at the way new technology is increasingly being used in religious persecution. This report followed an academic conference we held in March this year. As a result, Fiona Bruce secured an adjournment debate on 17 April and for the first time the term 'digital persecution' was used in Parliament. It was also the first time there has been a substantive debate on the topic of religious liberty and the threats to it from emerging technology. In turn, this growing parliamentary interest informed the 2022 FoRB Ministerial as we were able to launch the new digital persecution report and the issue was also featured as a part of the main Ministerial programme.
Meanwhile, 25 of our amazing supporters, including some of our Advocacy Reps, came to the conference to chat personally to their MPs, urging them to use their influence for the good of persecuted Christians.
It is also lovely to see how the Handmade Petition is still having a continued impact on parliamentarians and policy makers in the FoRB space. Here you can see it beautifully captured by the FCDO in a video of the 2022 FoRB Ministerial.
On Monday 4 July, just prior to the FoRB Ministerial starting, the independent review into the progress made by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in implementing the recommendations of the 2019 Truro Review was released.
This assessment was one of the recommendations arising from the Bishop of Truro’s review, and its aim was to examine whether the FCDO had made progress in understanding and championing the right to freedom of religion or belief globally.
This 2022 review reports that the UK Government has taken many welcome actions (including appointing Fiona Bruce MP as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief). However, the global persecution of Christians cannot be solved with one review alone, and further action will be needed to ensure that the FCDO is ready to meet existing and emerging challenges to freedom of religion or belief.
Open Doors are currently running an appeal to further highlight the violent persecution and ongoing discrimination facing Christians in India, which continues to be a deeply concerning issue. You can read about Mehr’s* story and how you can help support Christians like her with relief and further support.
As this year’s World Watch List showed, violence against Christians in India has risen sharply in recent years. Reports show there had been 486 reported cases of violence against Christians in 2021, an increase of 75% from 2020. However, as reporting a crime in India is a challenge, the actual number might be higher.
We are advocating together by ‘praying without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5) for our persecuted family in India. We would love your support in praying specifically for an Indian Supreme Court case that should have taken place earlier this week but has again been postponed.
In September, a new Prime Minister will be announced to the nation. Whoever it is, and whoever is appointed to senior Government positions, we hope that they will continue to engage with the challenges faced by persecuted Christians around the world. From taking forward the work of the Truro Review to considering how to deal with digital persecution or responding to the deteriorating situation in Nigeria, these new Ministers will come into key roles at a critical time. Our team are ready to work with them, highlighting the persecution of Christians and what can be done in response.
As we look ahead to the next Parliamentary term, Open Doors’ advocacy team will be focusing on keeping FoRB a central focus of the political agenda. The 2022 FoRB Ministerial was a great opportunity to promote the need for more action and we want to encourage parliamentarians to continue to engage with this. As a team, we will be focusing on holding UK government to account in all that the Truro independent review has revealed, while also gearing up for a new World Watch List.
Thank you for joining us in highlighting the plight of our persecuted family, and for your continued support in speaking out and advocating for religious freedom around the world. There will be many more opportunities to take action this year and, together, give voice to the persecuted church.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.