Bishop praised for standing up for Christians worldwide

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The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen.

5th May 2021

By Matt Dixon

The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, has been praised for his report on the persecution of Christians across the world.

The Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines told Church of England’s General Synod last week that “human dignity and flourishing is diminished” when religious believers and atheists are persecuted.

He also warned the Church’s decision-making body that it would be an “act of self-harm” only to speak up for persecuted Christians.

Speaking in a debate on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Bishop Baines addressed many abuses, including against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, atheists in Saudi Arabia and Christians in Pakistan.

“If human rights mean anything, then the freedom to choose our religion or belief, the freedom to change our religion or belief and the freedom to have no religion or stated belief at all is a right we all have by virtue of being human,” Baines said.

He continued: “Violations are increasing and intensifying, involving not just intolerance and exclusion but active discrimination.

“In its ultimate form this can culminate in genocide, a phenomenon that has sadly been seen with increasing frequency, whether that of Christians and Yazidis at the hands of ISIS in Iraq, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar or Uighurs in China.

“In today’s interconnected age it is no longer possible to claim ignorance of these terrible events. To quote William Wilberforce: ‘You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.’”

Baines also highlighted recommendations being made to the government, including providing training on FoRB for diplomats.

Last year, the Mission and Public Affairs department of the Church of England, alongside other partners, was awarded a “substantial” government grant to develop a FoRB learning network.

Bishop Mounstephen led an independent review of the persecution of Christians for the then-foreign secretary in July 2019.

Bishop Baines praised Bishop Mounstephen’s report and highlighted that all 22 recommendations had not yet been implemented by the government, although accepted in full.

Archbishop Angaelos, the general bishop in the United Kingdom of the Coptic Orthodox Church, told Synod of the recent killing by the so-called Islamic State of Nabil Habashi Salama, a Coptic Christian, and two other people in North Sinai.
He said ecumenical partners would welcome the motion.

He said: “We ask you to recognise [this] and we commend this to you, so that in this time, at this moment, when we are called we stand for those less fortunate than ourselves, and we place ourselves at their service.”

The motion was passed.

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