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Bishop of Truro’s Review: FCO Support for Persecuted Christians

In July 2019 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office published a review of Government support for persecuted Christians led by the Bishop of Truro. The report outlined the seriousness of the problem and makes recommendations to the FCO on steps to tackle it. The report calls for action at the United Nations, including a Resolution to allow UN observers to monitor the problem. Shortly after publication Lord Ahmad announced that the Government would implement all of the recommendations from the Bishop of Truro’s review. The Government has said it will commission an independent review into the recommendations at the end of the three-year implementation period.

In July 2021 the government said it had fully implemented ten of the 22 recommendations, made good progress on a further eight, and “are confident” that all 22 will be delivered by the time of the independent review in 2022.

In December 2020 the Prime Minister appointed Fiona Bruce as his special envoy for freedom of religion or belief. News about her work is available on twitter: @UK_FoRBEnvoy.

Identifying central African countries

The debate focuses on central African countries. The number of countries to be covered can vary depending on the definition used.

As one guide, the UN regional office for central Africa covers the eleven Member States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS): Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe.

Sources of information on violence against Christians in central African countries

There are a number of sources of information on religious persecution in these countries.

The Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) monitors the international situation in respect of religious freedom. In its 2020 Human Rights and Democracy report, reaffirmed that defending Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is a priority for the Prime Minister. The report says monitoring developments around the world and raising issues of concern continued to be central to the government’s work on FoRB in 2020. Some steps taken in 2020 including joining the new Group of Friends of Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief at the UN, and becoming a founding member of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance

The US State department reports annually to Congress on the status of religious freedom in every country. The 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom, published in May 2021, provides information on religious demography and the status of government respect and societal respect for religious freedom. The report is searchable by country.

Open Doors, a Christian charity, has identified 50 countries “where Christians face the most extreme persecution.” Three of the countries on its World Watch List report 2021 are in central Africa: Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR). The charity finds that globally, the persecution of Christians “continues to worsen” and that the Covid-19 pandemic “has exacerbated existing social, economic and structural vulnerabilities.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide monitors violence against Christians’ arounds the world. In a recent post the Chief Executive of CSW Nigeria, Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, discussed ways to remove the obstacles to freedom of religion or belief in Africa. Noting that religion-related terrorist groups thrive in ungoverned areas, or where the structures of governance are weak or have been weakened, Nmadu argues that, as well as addressing the immediate security challenges they present, initiatives that improve community relations, strengthen state institutions and encourage social cohesion, unity and respect for diversity are needed. Nmadu recommends adding freedom of religion or belief training to peacebuilding and interfaith work undertaken by regional bodies such as the AU, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

The APPG for International Freedom of Religion and Belief also provides information on specified countries, including Central African Republic. The APPG published a report in February 2021 on the current state of Freedom of Religion and Belief.

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