Jeremy Hunt sends message of solidarity to persecuted Christians worldwide
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has sent a message of solidarity to persecuted Christians around the world to mark the end of Lent.
The cabinet minister wrote 40 letters to church groups and leaders under attack around the world, and pledged his support for persecuted religious groups.
On average, 300 Christians a month are killed because of their faith, according to the Foreign Office.
Mr Hunt's first letter has been sent to 90-year-old Dutch missionary Brother Andrew, founder of Christian group Open Doors.
Mr Hunt said: "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.
"I want you to know that the UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world.
“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 practice as they wish.
“I will continue to make this case for the millions who suffer as a result of their beliefs and British diplomats will continue to advocate for all those denied the right to practise their faith.”
Mr Hunt has also launched a Foreign Office review of the persecution of Christians around the world, led by the Bishop of Truro, Reverend Philip Mounstephen.
The FCO admitted the UK's policy priorities have “not always reflected the suffering of persecuted Christians", and the Aglican priest will make recommendations on how do more to help groups under attacks.
Henrietta Blyth, chief executive of the Open Doors group said: "I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s independent review into the extent of UK government support for Christians facing persecution for their faith.
"This review is a great first step but the proof of the pudding will be if it delivers concrete change for persecuted Christians and if its recommendations are also adopted by other government departments."
According to the group, North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia are the three countries where Christians currently “face the most extreme persecution”.
The FCO review will report back in the summer.