Political correctness should not get in the way of action aimed at helping Christians on the verge of extinction in the Middle East, the U.K. Foreign Secretary has warned.
“Yesterday my family and I walked a short journey to our local church, and enjoyed an uplifting Christmas service. We attend as a simple matter of personal choice, but since being appointed Foreign Secretary, it has struck me how much we take that choice for granted: others around the world are facing death, torture and imprisonment for that very right,” Jeremy Hunt wrote in an op-ed published in The Telegraph and the U.K. government website on Wednesday, which was Boxing Day in the U.K.
Hunt pointed out that 100 years ago, close to 20 percent of the people in the Middle East were Christian, but various terror campaigns have pushed that number to below five percent today.
The U.K. politician mentioned a number of cases where Christians have faced severe persecution and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ, from instances in Egypt to Iraq and Pakistan.
The Islamic State terror group, in particular, has forced multitudes of believers to flee the region in the past several years, with many unlikely to return.
Hunt praised the U.K. government for long championing international religious freedom, but at the same time warned that it can do more to help Christians, particularly in the Middle East.
“I am not convinced that our response to the threats facing this particular group has always matched the scale of the problem, nor taken account of the hard evidence that Christians often endure a disproportionate burden of persecution. Perhaps this is borne out of the very British sense of awkwardness at ‘doing God’. Perhaps it’s an awareness of our colonial history, or because Britain is a traditionally Christian country some are fearful of being seen to help Christians in desperate need,” he suggested.
“Whatever the cause, we must never allow a misguided political correctness to inhibit our response to the persecution of any religious community.”
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Hunt revealed that he has appointed the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, to lead a global review of the persecution of Christians, and examine in which areas the government can do more to help.
“With Christianity on the verge of extinction in its birthplace, it is time for concerted action that begins to turn the tide,” he said.
“It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk.”
Major U.K. leaders, from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to Prince Charles, have long warned about the plight of Middle East Christians.
Earlier in December, the Prince of Wales spoke at a special service at Westminster Abbey, where he praised the "truly remarkable faith” of Christians in the Middle East.
“Time and again I have been deeply humbled and profoundly moved by the extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness that I have seen in those who have suffered so much,” Prince Charles said at the time, referring to number of Christians from the region he has met and spoke with.
He said that their commitment to their faith no matter the terrors they face demonstrates the “extraordinary power of faith to resist even the most brutal efforts to extinguish it.”