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97 Parliamentarians were in attendance or represented at the 2018 World Watch List launch in Parliament hosted by Theresa Villiers

18 January 2018

97 Parliamentarians attended or were represented at the launch of the 2018 World Watch List in Parliament, which was hosted by Theresa Villiers MP. Parliamentarians and other guests heard testimonies from Michael*, a Christian businessman from Egypt, Hannah* from Pakistan, and Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, who called on parliamentarians to act on behalf of persecuted Christians.

The launch was attended by church leaders, journalists, Peers and 87 MPs, including Vince Cable MP, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade, and Owen Smith MP, amongst others.

The World Watch List launch was a packed event, and it’s all thanks to people like you speaking out for your persecuted church family and contacting your MP. Your voice is putting freedom of religion or belief higher on the agenda of our leaders. Stephen Timms MP says, "What's striking about Open Doors and the World Watch List initiative is just how much support there is for it from our constituents." Hear more from him below:


Theresa Villiers MP opened the event highlighting that while violent persecution is serious, non-violent persecution can be just as debilitating, and imploring those in the room to act to help. “The commonwealth heads of government conference in London this year is a good opportunity to promote international freedom of religion and belief,” she said.


Hannah from Pakistan told of many Christians in her community who had suffered for their faith. She shared the horrific story of her cousin saying, "I wish I stood here to tell you that Saima* had been awarded a government award as an advocate for the rights of young women. But sadly I am unable to. Like nearly 600 other young girls each year, Saima, was coerced, raped, her family did not know where she was for days, until they finally heard she was forced to become a Muslim and marry her oppressor. She had just joined law school. She was forced to give up her studies, her dream and the church family she so loved. I wish I could tell you there was justice was Saima, but I cannot because Saima’s family were threatened that if they dared to make a sound, Saima would be accused of blasphemy and so would they."

Michael told parliament of the violent attacks and the church buildings which are being destroyed in Egypt, saying that people in Egypt see churches as a 'symbol of evil and a threat to their dominant established culture'. But while these attacks are widely reported around the world, the daily squeeze and suffocation of Christians goes unnoticed. To illustrate his point Michael held up a ball of shredded CVs saying, “This is what happened to Christian’s CVs and their dreams. In spite of his 30 years of hard work in a public sector company, my father was never allowed to head his department because of his faith. This is the case now with my wife.” But he said, “The church in Egypt refuses to kneel down to fear.”


Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland then summarised the findings of the report, including the rapid growth of persecution against Christians citing religious nationalism as a key driver.

Open Doors has been campaigning to put freedom of religion or belief on the government's agenda, which, as Lisa notes, is happening,"The UK government is definitely becoming more aware of the issues facing Christians and other minorities in the countries which we engage with. I was encouraged to have a meeting with the Prime Minister in December with an Iraqi church leader where Theresa May could hear more about the Christian minority there, whose plight she referenced in her Christmas message, and by Lord Ahmed’s focus on freedom of religion and belief as part of his wider human rights brief.

"We are also encouraged by the increasing number of questions being asked by MPs regarding the extent to which countries where the UK is engaging through aid or trade are fulfilling their obligation to the international right to freedom of religion or belief.  I know some of you here have been part of that – thank you."

The World Watch List launches in Parliament

Echoing Theresa Villers, Lisa said, "It is vital that the UK government use all its influence – through its foreign policy, aid and trade agreements and its broader influence within the international community – to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is established and then protected around the world. One opportunity unique to 2018 is the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of State in London. This is a chance for the United Kingdom to lead the way in reminding the eight Commonwealth countries found on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the importance of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Let’s be brave – let’s lead.”

Concluding the event Lisa said, “There are no easy fixes – but I ask that our government renew its effort and use all possible influence within the international community to begin to reverse the squeeze of persecution in these 50 countries and beyond. The need can seem overwhelming but all we are responsible for is that which is in our hands to do.”

Report Recommendations

Each attendee received a copy of the 2018 World Watch List report, Death by a thousand cuts: the rise of non-violent persecution as a tool of suppression, which details the key findings, trends and countries of special concern. The report also recommends the following:

  • The leaders of Commonwealth countries are all meeting with Theresa May in London in April this year. This is a great opportunity for the Prime Minister to raise the persecution of Christians in the 8 commonwealth countries on the World Watch List – countries such as India, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • The government should ensure school curriculums in countries on the World Watch List do not say anything derogatory against minority religions, especially if they are funding education projects in those countries. Using the aid budget to train teachers about the right to choose or change one’s religion is also important.
  • In a lot of World Watch List countries like India, the police ignore violent attacks against Christians, and this leads to fear spreading through the Christian community. The UK government should spend its aid budget on training the police and judges in these countries on the importance of people being allowed to have different religions, change one’s religion, and that attacks against religious minorities is a serious crime which needs to be taken very seriously.


  • That those who attended the launch of the World Watch List will be deeply impacted by what they heard, and do what they can to act on behalf of the persecuted church
  • That the leaders of UK will be used by God to bring freedom, hope and dignity to persecuted believers around the world.

*names changed for security reasons


The room was incredibly busy during the launch, and we may have missed a few parliamentarians who attended, but below is a list of all those we registered as being present in alphabetical order. If your MP is on the list, you may wish to thank them for coming.

  • Peter Aldous
  • Sir David Amess
  • Tonia Antoniazzi
  • Roberta Blackman-Woods
  • Sir Peter Bottomley
  • Ben Bradshaw
  • Kevin Brennan
  • Steve Brine
  • Deidre Brock
  • Kevin Brown
  • Alan Brown
  • Fiona Bruce
  • Vince Cable
  • Rehman Chishti
  • Rosie Cooper
  • Robert Courts
  • Stephen Crabb
  • Alex Cunningham
  • David Davies
  • Nigel Dodds
  • Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
  • Michelle Donelan
  • Steve Double
  • David Drew
  • David Duguid
  • Paul Farrelly
  • Vicky Ford
  • Liam Fox
  • Marcus Fysh
  • Ruth George
  • Patricia Gibson
  • Paul Girvan
  • John Glen
  • Roger Godsiff
  • Bill Grant
  • Damian Green
  • Chris Green
  • John Grogan
  • Sir Oliver Heald
  • Sylvia Hermon
  • Wera Hobhouse
  • Philip Hollobone
  • Gareth Johnson
  • Marcus Jones
  • Susan Elan Jones
  • David Jones
  • David Linden
  • Emma Little-Pengelly
  • Stephen Lloyd
  • Julia Lopez
  • Jonathan Lord
  • Angus Brendan MacNeil
  • Rachael Maskell
  • Chris Matheson
  • Steve McCabe
  • Kerry McCarthy
  • Stuart McDonald
  • Catherine McKinnell
  • Ian Mearns
  • Carol Monaghan
  • Chi Onwurah
  • Ian Paisley
  • Victoria Prentis
  • Mark Prisk
  • Mark Pritchard
  • Jonathan Reynolds
  • Emma Reynolds
  • Gavin Robinson
  • Paul Scully
  • Andrew Selous
  • Jim Shannon
  • Virendra Sharma
  • David Simpson
  • Andy Slaughter
  • Owen Smith
  • John Spellar
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Bob Stewart
  • Jamie Stone
  • Sir Desmond Swayne
  • Hugo Swire
  • Nick Thomas-Symmonds
  • Stephen Timms
  • Michael Tomlinson
  • Theresa Villiers
  • Robin Walker
  • Sammy Wilson


  • Darren Jones
  • Mel Stride
  • Sharon Hodgeson
  • Gary Streeter
  • Cat Smith
  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle
  • Julian Lewis
  • Caroline Nokes

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Find out more about persecution in Wwl