Jeremy Hunt 'appalled' by suffering of 245 million Christians persecuted for their faith

Jeremy Hunt promised that the persecution of Christians would be high on the agenda in Britain's dealings with countries where it is an issue(Photo: Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has used an Easter message to express his solidarity with millions of Christians worldwide suffering for their faith. 

Mr Hunt spoke of his commitment to promoting religious freedom around the world in 40 Lent letters sent out to Christians who have experienced persecution. 

The first letter was sent to Open Doors founder Brother Andrew.  In it, Mr Hunt said it was his "honour" to send the first letter to Brother Andrew, a missionary from the Netherlands who used to smuggle Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. 

Mr Hunt praised his "extraordinary and courageous support" for the persecuted church as he recalled reading about Brother Andrew's story as a child in the book, "God's Smuggler". 

"As a man of faith, free to practise in line with my conscience, I am appalled at the plight of the 245 million Christians worldwide currently facing persecution as a result of their belief," he said.

Brother Andrew reading the letter at his home in the Netherlands

"I want you to know that the UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world and that British diplomats will continue to advocate for them, and for those who are being denied the basic right to practise their faith.

"Freedom of Religion or Belief is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must be respected. People from all faiths or none should be free to practise as they wish. I will continue to make this case for the millions who suffer as a result of their beliefs." 

Henrietta Blyth, CEO Open Doors UK and Ireland said she was delighted Mr Hunt had chosen Brother Andrew as the recipient of his first Lent letter. 

"Families are left scarred by the loss of loved ones and communities are devastated at a time when they should simply be celebrating the Easter message joyfully and freely," she said. 

"Easter is a time of hope for us all. Yet it is often a time when Christians are targeted for their faith."