Government expects to deliver on all persecution report recommendations by 2022

(Photo: Open Doors UK & Ireland)

The government says it is confident it can implement all 22 recommendations in the Bishop of Truro's report on supporting persecuted Christians through British embassies around the world.

Nigel Adams MP, Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has been answering questions from MPs about progress in implementing the independent report by Bishop Philip Mounstephen.

The report said: "Christianity is by most calculations the most persecuted religion of modern times."

The then Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, commissioned Bishop Mounstephen, an Anglican evangelical and former head of the Church Mission Society, to chair the review group which produced the report in 2019. The Mounstephen review set a three-year target for the implementation of its recommendations.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question tabled on June 16 by Democratic Unionist MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Mr Adams said: "The government has committed to implementing in full the recommendations in the Bishop of Truro's review, and work continues to implement them in a way that will bring real improvement to the lives of those persecuted due to their faith or belief.

"Of the 22 recommendations we have fully delivered ten, made good progress on a further eight, and are confident that all 22 will be delivered by the time of the independent review in 2022."

Mr Adams also told Sir Jeffrey, a practising Christian who became leader of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland on June 26, that the FCDO "is currently working with an external implementer to develop training for staff on religion for international engagement.

"The implementer, the Edward Cadbury Centre at the University of Birmingham, is consulting with a wide range of external stakeholders, including those that work specifically on Christian persecution. The training will support our work on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, including amplifying the FoRB toolkit.

"Posts (embassies, high commissions and consulates) across the FCDO network regularly report on the local human rights situation, including in relation to the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief."

Answering a question from Scottish National Party MP, Kirsten Oswald, Mr Adams said: "A framework is being developed that will be available to all staff setting out why freedom of religion or belief is a core human right to be championed."

In response to another recommendation, the FCDO set up a research fund named after John Bunyan, the 17th Century Baptist preacher persecuted by the Anglican establishment and author of the classic Christian allegory, Pilgrim's Progress. 

Commenting on its impact, he told Ms Oswald: "Various research activities have already been funded, including establishing the John Bunyan Fund, which amongst other things, has looked at the links between gender and freedom of religion and belief. We continue to look for opportunities to support quality research."

The 2019 Truro report warned that the persecution of Christians was "at near genocide levels". 

"Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity. In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN," the report said.