Christians in North Africa and Middle East 'under substantial threat'

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was today urged to continue speaking up for human rights and religious freedom around the world and especially in Arab Spring countries.

The Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland, Lord Selkirk of Douglas expressed "grave concern" over the plight of Christians caught up in the "revolutionary turmoil" across North Africa and the Middle East, saying Christians in the region were "still under substantial threat" and had in some cases lost their lives as a result of their religious beliefs.

"We must continue to urge these newcomers and those that are still in conflict to respect the rule of law and remember that the Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 urges nations to guarantee freedom of thought, conscience and religion," he said.

"Democratic governments which believe in the rule of law should have the moral courage to raise the issue wherever these rights are flagrantly abused in breach of the UN charter. It is a form of discrimination which must be strongly condemned."

He brought to attention the work of the Church of Scotland through the World Mission Council in fostering dialogue between Christian and Muslim communities in Africa. The work focuses on peace, development, education and literacy, with an especial emphasis on empowering girls.

Lord Selkirk referred to the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, as he reminded General Assembly there was a continuing need to speak up for human rights today.

"Whilst the institution of slavery in its original form is long gone from democratic countries, the evil of human trafficking still entraps needy and deceived people into a world of misery and degradation," he said.

"The Church of Scotland has very rightly made a principled stand in opposing this despicable trade wholeheartedly urging us all that to remain silent is to be unfaithful."

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