Christians are facing 'intolerable' levels of persecution

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The Church of England's General Synod has voted unanimously for a motion in support of "the persecuted Church in the world" on the final afternoon of its February meeting in Westminster.

The motion tabled by Lichfield Diocesan Synod calls on CofE dioceses to support overseas Anglicans in "link dioceses" who are facing persecution.

It also calls on the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops worldwide, due to meet in Canterbury in July and August, to address "the issue of persecuted Christians".

Moving the motion, Lichfield lay representative Penny Allen said: "There is no excuse for abuse, threats and violence and we recognise that it is the responsibility of governments as well as organisations and individuals to acknowledge and deal with this."

The Bishop of Chelmsford Guli Francis-Dehqani said her early Christian faith was nurtured in the small Persian Church in Iran.

She told Synod: "The impact of the 1979 Islamic revolution on that community and personally on my family has continued to shape my faith and the nature of my ministry.

"So, I want to endorse this motion and encourage dioceses to offer support and form links where possible.

"But I also want to say that we must remember that for some parts of the (Anglican) Communion there are particular sensitivities that mean that links with churches in the West can be unhelpful and even dangerous. Such contact can reinforce views that Christianity is a foreign sect and the Church an agent of the West.

"So, wisdom is needed in forming links."

The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, whose report on the persecution of Christians worldwide was published by the Foreign Office in 2019, also spoke in the debate.

"That people should be targeted simply because they believe different things and organise their lives accordingly is a monstrous evil; that 83 per cent of the world's population should have that freedom curtailed is unacceptable; that 80 per cent of religiously motivated discrimination is directed against Christians is intolerable," he said.

Blackburn lay representative Stephen Boyall said the children's group he helps lead at his local church recently wrote cards to a Nigerian boy whose father had been killed for his Christian faith. The boy was two years old when his father was murdered and is now 11.

"Can you imagine growing up trusting Jesus when your Dad was killed for trusting Jesus?" Mr Boyall said, adding: "And so we wrote telling him just how much joy he has brought us as we hear of him still trusting Jesus."

There was applause in the chamber as the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who chaired the debate, announced that 329 members voted for the motion with none against and no abstentions.