MPs call for action from NATO and Britain as Christians in Montenegro face persecution

(Photo: Unsplash/Alexandre Micheloud)

MPs Tim Farron and Steve Baker have called on the UK Government and NATO to take action to defend the freedom of Christians in Montenegro. 

In a bipartisan article in Newsweek, the MPs, who are both Christians, said that religious freedom "must be defended and protected everywhere" as they warned of increasing harassment towards Christians and clergy in Montenegro, including beatings and imprisonment. 

It follows the passing of a 'Law on Religious Freedom' by the Montenegrin parliament last December, which compels faith communities to register their assets with the state and receive a licence to practise their religion. 

"We may sit on opposite sides of the British House of Commons, divided by party and the great issue of Europe. Yet we stand united by our Christian faith—and our conviction that all have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," the MPs said. 

The majority of Montenegrins belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church.  Critics of the Law on Religious Freedom said it was passed to promote the minority Montenegrin Orthodox Church and seize the Serbian Orthodox Church's assets. 

The passing of the law has sparked ongoing protests in the country, attended by thousands of people, including members of the clergy. 

Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro has been interrogated twice in recent months and part of a monastery was reportedly demolished in June.

Farron and Baker said that the British Government should not give any resources or assistance to Montenegro "that may benefit, directly or indirectly, those responsible for creating and implementing this assault on Christians and the church they choose".

They went on to criticise the acceptance of President Djukanovic into NATO as they warned of corruption and additional abuses, including the silencing of political opponents and journalists in Montenegro. 

"It is important for Britain and her allies to act, and in haste," they said.

"We should not stand by and allow political avarice to ascend the right to freedom of faith. There must be a reckoning."

They urged the Government to impose travel bans and freeze bank accounts, and consider using money from the John Bunyan Fund for Freedom of Religion and Belief to support Montenegrins defending religious freedom. 

"If we are to fight the good fight and defend the rights of Christians worldwide, there is no excuse for us to stay silent, play deaf and do nothing when attacks on the faithful are underway in Europe," they said.