Anti-Christian persecution should be called out with the label “Christophobia”, Jeremy Hunt has urged, as he vowed to accept the recommendations of a report into the issue if he becomes prime minister.
The Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful said he was not convinced that Government efforts have “reflected the evidence” that it is Christians “who frequently endure the heaviest burden of persecution”.
Mr Hunt made the comments at a press conference alongside the Bishop of Truro, whose independent review, published on Monday, looks at the Foreign Office response to the persecution of Christians.
Referring to the report, the Cabinet minister said: “It says that for too long governments have preferred the vague language of general condemnation, rather than face the specific problem of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution.
“The report recommends that I instruct my officials to define this abuse and I believe we should do that by calling it out clearly with the label Christophobia.”
Mr Hunt said Christians were thought to be the target of around 80% of all acts of religious discrimination or persecution.
“Perhaps because of a misguided political correctness or an instinctive reluctance to talk about religion, British governments haven’t always grappled with this problem,” he said.
The report’s author, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, told the press conference: “We do need to ask why the violation of freedom of religion or belief is so widespread and affecting Christians on pretty much every continent.
“This is a global phenomenon with multiple drivers.”
On the report’s recommendations, he added: “Central to them is an argument that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should promote freedom of religion and belief much more proactively and that we should do so for all and not just for Christians.”
He said he believed the best way to protect Christians from persecution is to “guarantee” freedom of religion for everyone.
The bishop’s report recommended the Government pushes for a Security Council Resolution urging all governments in the Middle East and North Africa to protect Christians and other persecuted minorities, and allow UN observers to monitor the necessary security measures.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief said the Government has already “acted on the rising tide of Christian persecution across the world with some success”.
He added: “We, therefore, note the findings of this independent report and will consider the recommendations carefully and how they may further enhance our work in tackling Christian persecution specifically and in strengthening our work on freedom of religion or belief.”