It’s time to turn the words into action on Christian persecution

While the UK has form condemning barbaric acts inflicted on Christians because of their faith. It is time now to turn the words into action.

While the UK has form condemning barbaric acts inflicted on Christians because of their faith. It is time now to turn the words into action. 

In April, the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair courted controversy in delivering a speech that called for much greater efforts to tackle radical Islam.

Speaking to Bloomberg in London, Blair declared:

“For the last 40 to 50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytising, organising and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and dangerous. Unfortunately we seem blind to the enormous global impact such teaching has had and is having.

“Within the Middle East itself, the result has been horrible, with people often facing a choice between authoritarian government that is at least religiously tolerant; and the risk that in throwing off the government they don’t like, they end up with a religiously intolerant quasi-theocracy.”

The more we see and hear from the Middle East, the more difficult it can become to argue against Blair’s thought provoking speech.

As we wake this morning, the sickening news that the US journalist, James Foley, has been beheaded by ISIS is sadly just the tip of an all too grim ice burg that is engulfing much of Iraq and Syria.

Among the kinds of tactics used by Islamic militants has been beheading  children in playgrounds; burying people alive; and  crucifying those who stand in the way of the group’s aims and objectives.

Those being killed remain innocent victims, often punished simply for their Christian faith, in some cases finding themselves literally following Jesus’ command in the book of Matthew that “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Let me be clear from the outset, those responsible are purely and simply those militants in the ISIS organisation. But what it shows also is a failure on the part of the international community to grasp firmly and address head on in a systematic way the intolerance that we are now witnessing towards Christianity.

Often the response we get from our political leaders remains, rightly, words of condemnation and newspapers articles calling for freedom of religious belief. In some cases however we don’t even get that. How many people for example are aware that in the first eight months of this year alone, already the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram have killed the equivalent of 91% of the Christians they slaughtered in Nigeria in the whole of last year?

What we need now is to turn words into action, turn condemnation into something that actively uses the muscle and the powers we have to secure the protection for Christian believers that we should all want to see.

So how do we achieve this?

  1. A good start would be to take up the suggestion made by the Bishop of Leeds in his letter to the Prime Minister by appointing a new  ambassador at large for international religious freedom which, as the Bishop clearly pointed out, “would demonstrate the government’s serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence.”

 

  1. We now need to give serious consideration to reforming our asylum laws to grant safety to those Christians around the world facing death because of their faith. It is quite simply absurd and indefensible that the UK Government remains silent on the issue.

 

  1. All parties in the UK now need to establish a commission to draw up a clear strategy for protecting the rights of Christians around the world, focussing on how we can best use our diplomatic, trade, and if need be, military muscle, to secure the outcomes we all want to see.

 

  1. And finally, the UK Government should be leading calls now for a high level international conference, under the auspicious of the United Nations to bring countries together to establish a global response to the persecution of Christians worldwide.

In the UK we have been good at condemning barbaric acts inflicted on Christians because of their faith. It is time now to turn the words into action.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.