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16 January 2020

"The UK will not sit idly by": 123 MPs attend World Watch List 2020 launch

MPs from across the political spectrum heard first-hand about Christian persecution and how the UK Parliament can respond.


16 January 2020

"It is also disheartening to learn from Open Doors' report that the number of Christians living in countries where they are at risk of high to extreme levels of persecution has increased to 260 million people. [...] This is an alarming trend. We must not sit idly by. The United Kingdom will not sit idly by." These words from Rehman Chishti, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, will be welcomed by all the supporters who invited their MP to the Parliamentary launch of the World Watch List 2020.

World Watch List launch

Rehman Chishti, speaking at the World Watch List Parliamentary launch

It was very encouraging to see 123 MPs from across the political spectrum gather to hear first-hand about the persecution of Christians around the world, and listen to the recommendations from the Open Doors report about how our Parliament can best respond. This is the highest number of MPs who’ve ever attended a World Watch List launch – thank you so much for praying and inviting.

A key foreign policy

Chishti spoke about the 5,500 churches destroyed or closed down in China, the 1,445 physical attacks of Christians in India and the 1,350 believers murdered in Nigeria over the past twelve months, and called for MPs to do what they can to ensure that freedom of religion or belief is respected as a human right on the world stage.

This was echoed by Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland: “We would like to urge all parliamentarians to keep the issue of the persecution of Christians on the agenda. Please keeping talking about it!”

"Tackling religious intolerance and persecution is a key foreign policy and development policy challenge," Chishti continued, "because where freedom of religion or belief is under attack, other human rights are threatened too. Societies that aim to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief are more stable, are more prosperous and likely to be more resilient against violent extremism.

"It is absolutely vital, rather than simply directing aid through humanitarian channels, that we support the fantastic work going on by faith organisations on the ground, because they are able to reach some of the hardest and most difficult areas that humanitarian channels are not able to reach."

"What we long for is this: freedom to exercise our own faith.”

The event was opened by the host, the Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, who introduced Pastor Abdalla from Syria and Sunil* from Sri Lanka, who spoke first-hand about Christian persecution to the assembled parliamentarians.

"What we long for is this: freedom to exercise our own faith. We are hoping to see a day when believers in every village can worship together without resistance and violence," said Sunil, an Open Doors partner who worked closely with the injured and mourning after the Easter church attacks in Sri Lanka.

“Because of the dangers to the Christian community from extremists, Christians are leaving the country in great numbers. More than 60% of Syria’s Christians have left the country. But we are determined to stay,” said Pastor Abdalla, who runs a Centre of Hope in Aleppo, supported by your gifts and prayers. "Please do not forget the Christian community in Syria. We are a minority, and yet we are determined to do all we can to rebuild and strengthen our country."

Thank you

Many thanks to all the parliamentarians who attended – and particularly thanks to you, Open Doors supporters, who invited them to the event and continue to show how important the issue of Christian persecution is. We know that MPs respond to the topics raised by their constituents, and Rehman Chishti said that freedom of religion or belief was the second most commonly raised issue with the Foreign Office.

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum shared their support for Open Doors’ recommendations and for freedom of religion. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, tweeted that the report will ‘inspire the UK to do more to use our global network and UNSC seat to champion freedom of religion and belief’.

“The report makes for sobering reading and we must stand with all those who are persecuted for their beliefs around the world,” said Nick Thomas-Symonds, Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen, while Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, commented “Inspiring talk from Pastor Abdalla, who has bravely chosen to stay in Syria to support his congregation in Aleppo.”  

Taiwo Owatemi, Labour MP for Coventry North West, tweeted that “So much more needs to be done to tackle faith-based persecution around the world”, and Jamie Stone, Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, wrote that he was ‘glad to support Open Doors today in Parliament as they raise awareness of persecution towards Christians around the world’. He added: “Lib Dems support freedom of religion or belief for those of all faiths and none.”

“As a new MP, I attended Open Doors’ World Watch List launch in Parliament for the first time in January 2018," said David Linden, SNP MP for Glasgow East. "It was an insightful and significant event, and I left feeling armed to take strategic action on the important issue of Christian persecution across the world.”

Many other Parliamentarians mentioned their support on social media, and it was encouraging to see so many MPs engaged and interested in a very full room. Thank you again to everyone who prayed and invited!

*Name changed for security reasons

MPs who attended the world watch list launch

The room was very busy during the launch, and we may have missed a few parliamentarians who attended, but below is a list of the confirmed attendees - more than any previous World Watch List launch! If your MP is on the list, you could get in touch to thank them for attending. By simply raising the issue and voicing your concern, you have shown the importance of freedom of religion or belief.

Nickie Aiken

Peter Aldous

Stuart Anderson

Caroline Ansell

Tonia Antoniazzi

Edward Argar

Shaun Bailey

Siobhan Baillie

Steve Baker

Harriet Baldwin

Aaron Bell

Hilary Benn

Saqib Bhatti

Peter Bottomley

Andrew Bowie

Fiona Bruce

Alun Cairns

Lisa Cameron

Alistair Carmichael

Alex Chalk

Feryal Clark

Robert Courts

Stephen Crabb

Wayne David

James Davies

Mims Davies

Jeffrey Donaldson

Michelle Donelan

Steve Double

Jack Dromey

Flick Drummond

Ian Duncan-Smith

Tim Farron

Stephen Farry

Simon Fell

Margaret Ferrier

Nick Fletcher

Vicky Ford

Kevin Foster

Liam Fox

Richard Fuller

Marcus Fysh

Patricia Gibson

Preet Kaur Gill

Paul Girvan

Mary Glindon

Peter Grant

Kate Green

Margaret Greenwood

Nia Griffith

Andrew Griffith

Jonathan Gullis

Robert Halfon

Sally-Ann Hart

Sharon Hodgson

Philip Hollobone

Eddie Hughes

Jane Hunt

Rupa Huq

Andrew Jones

Ruth Jones

Barbara Keeley

Ben Lake

John Lamont

Andrew Lewer

Julian Lewis

David Linden

Carla Lockhart

Marco Longhi

Tim Loughton

Angus MacNeil

Scott Mann

Chris Matheson

Jerome Mayhew

Kerry McCarthy

Stuart McDonald

Robin Millar

Carol Monaghan

Caroline Nokes

Matthew Offord

Brendan O'Hara

Kirsten Oswald

Taiwo Owatemi

Ian Paisley

Mark Pawsey

Owen Paterson

Luke Pollard

Rebecca Pow

Jonathan Reynolds

Marie Rimmer

Laurence Robertson

Mary Robinson

Gavin Robinson

Andrew Rosindell

Paul Scully

Andrew Selous

Jim Shannon

Barry Sheerman

Henry Smith

John Spellar

Ben Spencer

Alexander Stafford

Bob Stewart

Jamie Stone

Gary Streeter

Mel Stride

Desmond Swayne

Derek Thomas

Nick Thomas-Symonds

Michael Thomlinson

Richard Thompson

Stephen Timms

Edward Timpson

Liz Twist

Robin Walker

Giles Watling

Claudia Webbe

Craig Williams

David Williamson

Sammy Wilson

Munira Wilson

William Wragg

Mohammed Yasin

 

15 January 2020

Later today (15 January 2020), the Open Doors 2020 World Watch List will be live on our website from 1pm, and will be launched formally at an event in Parliament at 4pm, hosted again by the Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers, MP.

Pastor Abdalla from Syria and Sunil* from Sri Lanka will be speaking at the parliamentary launch, sharing the struggles of our persecuted sisters and brothers. Please pray that they will speak boldly, and that God would move in the hearts of everyone in attendance so that real change will be enacted on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world.

THE WORLD WATCH WHAT?

The Open Doors World Watch List is the annual ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult and dangerous to follow Jesus. North Korea has been number one on the list since 2002 – will it still be number one in 2020? 

Thank you to everyone who has invited their MP to the launch! It’s your voice that makes our government sit up and pay attention to the suffering – but also the courage – of our persecuted church family. 

PLEASE PRAY:

  • For Pastor Abdalla and Sunil, that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak powerfully
  • For the Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers, MP and all MPs and parliamentarians attending the launch, that their hearts would be moved by the stories that they hear and that they would be inspired to act on behalf of the persecuted church 
  • That God would multiply the impact of the launch beyond what we can imagine or ask for.

*Name has been changed for security reasons


PLEASE PRAY

Lord, we lift up the UK Government and all decision makers in the UK and Ireland as they tackle the issue of freedom of religion or belief around the world. We ask that You would give them great wisdom and compassion, and that the advocacy from Open Doors supporters would land on listening ears and help our persecuted family.

Write to Indian Believers

Our brothers and sisters in India are keen to hear from you - and to know they are not forgotten. Can you send a message of encouragement to your family in India, who are following Jesus no matter the cost?

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