Bishops welcome support for persecuted Christians

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Statement from lead bishops for the Catholic Church and Church of England on the final report by the independent review into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians

We are encouraged that the Final Report by the Independent Review into FCO support for persecuted Christians has grounded its analysis and recommendations in a human rights framework and in a way that will benefit all those that face the risk or reality of restriction, hostility, violence or death, either on an individual or communal basis, because of the beliefs they hold or as a result of their religious identities.

We are also reassured that the Final Report reflects several recommendations from our own submission including: mandatory training for diplomats, tailored reports from embassies, dedicated funding for promoting freedom of religion or belief, and better engagement with faith communities.

Such practical steps should now be a priority for the UK government, rather than creating new definitions of persecution, which risks both oversimplifying the complex local challenges that vary between different countries and also diverting efforts from further developing the framework of international human rights protection. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by encouraging a competition for ‘victim status.’

We look forward to working with and supporting the Foreign and Commonwealth office as it looks to strengthen its response to the very high levels of restrictions on religious freedom that we have seen in recent years. Everyone should be able to enjoy their religion or belief, whatever that might be.

Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Lord Bishop of Southwark, Church of England’s Lead Bishop, Foreign Affairs

Rt Revd Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Lead Bishop, International Affairs