UK Parliament Debates Persecution in Asia

The severe persecution of Christians in parts of South East Asia and China was highlighted by members of parliament last week in UK

The severe persecution of Christians in parts of South East Asia and China was highlighted by members of parliament last week in a debate within the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, according to a UK-based persecution watchdog group.

The House of Commons debate, introduced by MP David Drew, highlighted the appalling treatment some Christians receive in South East Asia and China for practicing their faith and “doing nothing more than trying to serve God,” according to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

“Whether we are a Christian or follower of another religion or none, we should never lose sight of what is happening to Christians in other parts of the world,” Drew said before giving an overview of the situation in South East Asia and China, with particular focus on Vietnam.

During the July 13 debate, the MP spoke of “awful cases of the most direct action against Christians” and noted many instances of persecution, including the deliberate withholding of aid by the Vietnamese Government from Christians in many parts of Vietnam.

“We ask the Minister to raise the issue directly with the Vietnamese authorities to make it clear that there is documented evidence of mistreatment of people in their community trying to practice their religion,” Drew said. “We should be taking up such cases and telling the Vietnamese authorities that we know what is going on and that they must desist.”

Newly-elected MP, Stephen Crabb, focused on religious persecution in China, noting that “the Chinese Government seems to regard religion as a threat to their power.”

“As a result, they place severe restrictions on religious activities and seek to control them,” he said, according to CSW.

Crabb also drew attention to the brutal treatment suffered by Christians such as Liu Xianzhi during her interrogations by police and spoke of the massive police raid on Pastor Chen Dongming’s village in order to capture him.

He said the 50 police officers “had first surrounded the entire village, as if they were hunting dangerous armed criminals or terrorist suspects. Instead, their target was a harmless […] Christian pastor who was doing nothing more than trying to serve God.”

During the debate, Foreign Office Minster Ian Pearson stated, “In general, we believe that dialogue with individual countries, wherever possible, is the best way to achieve our goals.”

“Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials, both here and overseas, work closely with representatives of religious groups and Non-Governmental Organizations, such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide,” he added. “I pay tribute to them and acknowledge the work that they do in this field."

A number of the MPs also paid tribute to the work of CSW, which has worked on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promoted religious liberty for all since 1979.

“I would like to praise and recognize the work of Christian Solidarity Worldwide,” said Conservative Front Bencher Anne McIntosh. “We congratulate it on its work and on the thorough research that it does in bringing issues to the attention of the wider public.”

According to CSW, the organization’s Parliamentary Officer, Dr. Alan Hobson, worked closely with MPs to initiate the adjournment debate and to prepare material for it.

After the meeting, Drew said the debate had been “very good” and “detailed.”

“I am pleased by the content of the Minister’s speech,” the MP added. “We will of course follow up with the FCO the issues raised, as a matter of urgency.”

In commenting on the debate, CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said, “The persecution of Christians in South East Asia, and particularly in Vietnam, has struggled to gain the attention of the international community.”

“CSW is pleased this debate highlighted the appalling treatment some Christians receive. It is our hope this debate will result in action at the highest levels on behalf of people who struggle to speak up for themselves.”

In addition to CSW-UK, a number of other groups from across the world work together as international Christian Solidarity Worldwide partners since 1997 including CSW-Australia, CSW-Hong Kong, CSW-USA, the Norwegian Mission to the East, the All India Christian Council, the Danish European Mission, CSW Burkina Faso and Justice et Solidarité Mondiales (France). There are also currently embryo organizations in Nigeria and New Zealand.