Christians face extinction in Middle East, warns UK Minister

November 15, 2013 by Open Doors

Baroness Warsi says the situation for Christians has become a global crisis

Baroness Warsi on a visit to Pakistan in 2010.

A UK Foreign Office Minister has warned that Christians in some parts of the world face extinction because of violence against them.

Ahead of a speech at Georgetown University in Washington today, Baroness Warsi told the BBC that this “persecution” has become a global crisis.

“I’m concerned, as are members of the public from the large amount of correspondence that we receive, that the birthplace of Christianity – the parts of the world where Christianity first spread – is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving and those that are remaining are feeling persecuted,” she said.

“There are huge advantages to having pluralistic societies – everything from the economy to the way in which people develop educationally – and therefore we all have an interest in making sure that Christian communities do continue to feel like they belong and are not persecuted in the places where this religion was born.”

Baroness Warsi said the situation was bleak for many religious minorities, but particularly for Christians.

“It is [particularly bad for Christians],” she said. “One in ten Christians live in a minority situation and large numbers of those who live in a minority situation around the world are persecuted. And I think tragically what’s happening is that they are being seen as newcomers, being portrayed as ‘another’ within that society, even though they have existed there for many, many centuries.

“What we are seeing sadly is a sense of collective punishment, which is meted out by local groups – sometimes states, sometimes extremists. [Christians are] seen as legitimate targets for what they perceive as actions of their core religions, and this concept of collective punishment, about them being seen as agents of maybe the West or other places of the world or agents of regimes is wrong, and therefore we need to speak out and raise this with the countries where this is happening.”

For the Baroness, the key is for politicians in countries with a Christian minority to speak out against discrimination.

“I have responsibility for Pakistan,” she said. “One of the things that we’ve been involved in is having very frank conversations with the Prime Minister there, with the Foreign Minister, with the Minister who has responsibility for religious affairs, saying that politicians have a duty to speak out when this kind of persecution happens and to set the standards by which they expect societies to follow.

“Politicians need to set the standard. There was some interesting research that came out of the US, which said that the way in which a community is treated after an incident – a minority community is treated after say an extremist incident – is very much dependent upon the tone that politicians set. And therefore Politicians do have a responsibility to set the tone. They have a responsibility to mark out legal parameters as to what will and will not be tolerated. It’s a tragedy that 83 per cent of countries have a constitution within which freedom of religion is defined as protected but it’s not followed.”

Beyond speaking out, Baroness Warsi urged politicians to keep their word by ensuring that their national constitutions are met and that international human rights laws are followed.

“There is much more that we can do [beyond speaking out],” she said. “There is an international consensus in the form of a human rights council resolution on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths, but we need to build political will behind that.

“We have international articles which are the most translated on freedom of religion but they’re not implemented, so it’s not just about having laws, it’s about politicians having the political will to implement these laws.”

Source:World Watch Monitor

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