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Jeremy Hunt appalled at plight of persecuted Christians around the world

© Jane Barlow/PA WireJeremy Hunt.
Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt has used an Easter message to raise the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

The Foreign Secretary has written 40 letters to Christians, faith groups and leaders to mark the end of Lent.

Mr Hunt said he was “appalled” that 245 million Christians worldwide faced persecution as a result of their faith.

Some 300 Christians are killed every month because of their beliefs, the Foreign Office said.

Mr Hunt’s first letter was to 90-year-old Dutchman Andrew van der Bijl, who smuggled bibles into the communist Eastern bloc during the Cold War and founded the Open Doors charity.

In his letter to the missionary, known as Brother Andrew, 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.”

The Foreign Office acknowledged that the UK has not always reflected the suffering of persecuted Christians in its foreign policy.

Mr Hunt has launched a review into the issue, led by the Bishop of Truro the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen.

At the time of the review’s launch in January, Mr Hunt suggested that sensitivity around Britain’s imperial legacy may have hampered efforts to address the issue.

He said: “We want to – if I can put it this way – banish the hesitation to look into this issue without fear or favour that may exist because of our imperial history, because of concerns that some people might have in linking it with the activities of missionaries in the 19th century, to misguided imperialism.”

The Mounstephen review is due to report in the summer.

Henrietta Blyth, chief executive of Open Doors, 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.”