By Press Association
The UK’s aid budget should be used to help persecuted Christian communities around the world, a Tory MP has said.
Rehman Chishti, the MP for Gillingham and Rainham, led the call for greater use of the multibillion-pound budget to help Christians as MPs debated the Bishop of Truro’s recent report on persecution overseas.
MPs also raised concerns over abuse targeted at them after they voted against same-sex marriage and abortion reform in Northern Ireland.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Chishti said: “Greater use of our aid to persecuted Christian communities around the world is something we should seriously consider.”
He added: “As somebody who is a passionate supporter for international development aid, shouldn’t that now be targeted to support persecuted Christian communities around the world?”
This comes after a review into the Foreign Office’s response to persecuted Christians was released last week.
Tory former minister and Christian MP Andrew Selous raised an example of a Nigerian refugee camp where Christians were refused access to food because of their faith.
He said: “It is really important that Dfid, if it is involved in helping those refugees, makes sure that British aid is going to everyone who needs it regardless of their faith and that sort of discrimination is not allowed to happen.”
Former minister Sarah Newton said persecution against Christians is “primarily a phenomenon of the global poor”.
The Tory MP for Truro and Falmouth said: “To understand why the review is justified we have to appreciate that today the Christian faith is primarily a phenomenon of the global south.”
She added: “Western voices that are quick to speak out for the world’s poor cannot afford to be blind to this issue.”
Conservative and Christian MP Fiona Bruce (Congleton) said there is a need to “call out” those who criticise MPs for expressing their “biblically-based beliefs”.
She said: “I and many others in this place have been the subject of some really unpleasant abuse, particularly on social media, during the past week simply for speaking out in this place and voting on biblically-based beliefs on, for example, abortion and marriage.”
Christian DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) broke down during his speech after he was praised for his work in helping persecuted Christians. He was comforted by party colleagues before finishing his remarks.
Foreign minister Alan Duncan said the Government will accept all the recommendations of the Bishop of Truro’s report.
He said: “We are too reticent about discussing Christian persecution, and I think we must overcome this mindset. The evidence justifies a much louder voice.”
He said freedom of religion or belief will be put “at the heart” of Foreign Office “culture, policy, and operations”, and that diplomats will be given guidance on how to reflect these values.
Mr Duncan said the Government will examine whether adopting the label “Christophobia” will help address the issue.
He added: “We will respond immediately to any atrocity, including genocide, and we will continue our work to impose sanctions on the perpetrators of religious or faith based persecution.”
Sir Alan also said all Foreign Office staff will undergo mandatory training where it is relevant to their jobs.