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Despite the headlines, Iraq and Syria are not the worst countries to be Christian, according to Open Doors, an NGO that monitors persecution. North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan are the top five in Open Doors’ 2017 ranking.

Christianity was prevalent in the north before the Korean war and many Korean pastors fled to South Korea after it; Christianity has become one of the biggest battlegrounds between north and south, leading to massive repression in what is anyway one of the most repressive countries in the world. 

Although Christians are ‘People of the Book’ according Islam and for most Muslims this means they should be allowed to practice their religion, subject to certain constraints, there are many examples of the persecution of Christians from around the Muslim world.

The most notorious examples recently have been perpetrated by ISIS/Daesh. ISIS in Libya massacred 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in 2015 and in April of that year released a video which the militants claimed showed them massacring 30 Ethiopian Christians.

Last year reports emerged of the killing of 21 Christians in Syria in a town subsequently recaptured by Syrian government forces – they had broken the terms of their restrictions or tried to escape. Warnings had also been received of Christian girls being enslaved. ISIS militants had destroyed a 1,500 year old monastery along with most of the rest of the town.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office answered a PQ in April 2017 on its activities to support Christians at risk of persecution. The minister said that action was being taken in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere:

“The Government supports the right of people of all religions – and non-religious people – to practise their beliefs in peace and safety. We are doing this in a number of ways. Through our bilateral work we lobby host governments to raise individual cases and highlight practices and laws that discriminate against people on the basis of their religion or belief. For example, the Foreign Secretary raised the rights of all Pakistani citizens, including religious minorities, during his visit to Pakistan in November 2016. Multilaterally, we work to sustain consensus support for United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions which promote freedom of religion. We also support a number of projects at grass roots level. For example, we are funding a network of human rights defenders who are working for Freedom of Religion or Belief in South Asia. In Syria and Iraq, where Christians and people of other religions have suffered such appalling persecution and violence at the hands of Daesh, our main contribution to ending the persecution of religious minorities is our support for the international effort to defeat Daesh and return the region to stability and peace.”

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