Open Doors welcomes Foreign Secretary’s Easter message of Hope to Open Doors founder Brother Andrew and persecuted Christians around the world.
Responding to the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s Easter message of hope, which stated his desire to “Encourage and bolster Christians under attack” Henrietta Blyth, CEO Open Doors UK and Ireland said: “Families are left scarred by the loss of loved ones and communities are devastated at a time when they should simply be celebrating the Easter message joyfully and freely.
“Easter is a time of hope for us all. Yet it is often a time when Christians are targeted for their faith. That’s why I am pleased that Jeremy Hunt launched a review of the Government’s response to persecution and has chosen Easter to further shine a light on the issue by writing 40 Lent letters to persecuted Christians and those who support them. I am delighted that the first letter has gone to Open Doors’ founder, Brother Andrew, who has greatly inspired me and so many others by his tireless work for those persecuted for their faith.”
In the letter, Jeremy Hunt told Brother Andrew, “I would like to express my personal thanks for the extraordinary and courageous support you have provided to the persecuted Church throughout the years. Having read 'God's Smuggler' as a child, I know that your story has inspired millions of people around the world to speak out on behalf of the voiceless and suffering.”
Brother Andrew, 90, read the letter in his home in the Netherlands, he said: “I was encouraged to receive Mr Hunt’s letter and to read of his ongoing commitment to ensure that the UK government do everything possible to support Christians and other minorities in parts of the world where they are persecuted for their faith.”
The Foreign Secretary’s 40 letters come amid the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s review into the persecution of Christians, which he announced in an article in The Telegraph entitled, We must not allow a misguided political correctness to stop us from helping persecuted Christians.
Henrietta Blyth continued, “Despite the cowardly attacks on Christians seen in recent years, Easter marks renewal and hope and unites Christians across the world. I believe that freedom of religion or belief is one of the major issues of our time. This review is a good first step to addressing this. For it to be effective it must deliver real, tangible and lasting change for those suffering persecution. I will be praying for this impact as I worship freely in my church this Easter Sunday.”
When announcing the review, the Foreign Secretary said, “I have invited the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, to lead an independent review of whether we are doing all we can. I would like this exercise to consider some tough questions and offer ambitious policy recommendations.”
Every January Open Doors publishes its World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is most extreme. It is produced using detailed information from 150 countries. Data is gathered on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life. A sixth block, ‘violence’, cuts across all five, and measures serious ‘violence’ (including deprivation of freedom) to people or property. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a points system. Open Doors' research methods and results are independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2019 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2018.
Brother Andrew’s book ‘God’s Smuggler’ is available on the Open Doors website www.opendoorsuk.org
The Foreign Secretary's letter to Brother Andrew reads:
Dear Brother Andrew,
Earlier this year I launched an independent review into the persecution of Christians overseas, to see if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was doing all it could to support persecuted Christians around the world. As part of this review, I have made a personal commitment to write 40 letters to persecuted Christians, or those supporting them, during the 40 days of Lent.
It is my honour to write the first letter to you.
I would like to express my personal thanks for the extraordinary and courageous support you have provided to the persecuted Church throughout the years. Having read 'God's Smuggler' as a child, I know that your story has inspired millions of people around the world to speak out on behalf of the voiceless and suffering. And as a parliamentarian who has received many letters over the years from Open Doors supporters, I am grateful for Open Doors' commitment to shine a light on this issue.
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 and that British diplomats will continue to advocate for them, and for those who are being denied the basic right to practise their faith.
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 practise as they wish. I will continue to make this case for the millions who suffer as a result of their beliefs. In this regard, I take inspiration from the words of wisdom in King George VI's Christmas message in 1939:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year. "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied. "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP