SCOTLAND: Cardinal criticises UK's 'anti-Christian' foreign policy
By Scottish Catholic Media Office
Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh
The UK’s most senior Catholic has hit out at the British Foreign Secretary for operating an “anti-Christian foreign policy”.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s comments come as the UK Government announced plans to double overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million – without requiring any commitment to religious freedom for Christians.
Earlier this month the only Christian in the Pakistani government’s cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was shot dead by gunmen in Islamabad. He had previously spoken out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Noting the various attacks on Christians, the Cardinal said that conditions should be attached to any aid payments, requiring a definite commitment to protection for Christians and other religious minorities – including Shia Muslims.
BBC Reporting Scotland, 15th March 2011
Cardinal O’Brien’s comments come on the day a new audit of human rights reveals that 75 percent of all religious persecution around the world is now directed against Christians.
The Aid to the Church in Need report also reveals that 100 million Christians around the world are now facing persecution, while the Christian population in some countries is collapsing. In the past 25 years the Christian population of Iraq has gone from an estimated 1.4 million to as low as 150,000 now.
Speaking at the Glasgow launch of the report into Christian persecution on Tuesday 15th March, Cardinal O’Brien said: “I urge William Hague to obtain guarantees from foreign governments before they are given aid.
“To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy.
“Pressure should now be put on the government of Pakistan – and the governments of the Arab world as well – to ensure that religious freedom is upheld. The provision of aid must require a commitment to human rights.”
STV News at Six, 15th March 2011
Cardinal O’Brien, who is Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, continued: “This report highlights the huge surge in Christians fleeing persecution. It reveals that 75 percent of all religious persecution around the world today is anti-Christian. This reality is both shocking and saddening.
“In countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, Christians face violence, intolerance and even death because of their beliefs.
“This is intolerable and unacceptable. Here in Scotland we value our freedoms, particularly the freedom of religion and the right to practice our faith free of persecution. Yet this detailed and at times harrowing report reminds us that not all of our fellow Christians enjoy such freedom to worship.
“I hope the evidence presented by Aid to the Church in Need will encourage us all to speak out for religious freedom at every opportunity and motivate us to support those who campaign for it.
“We ask that the religious freedoms we enjoy to practise our faith will soon be extended to every part of the world and that the tolerance we show to other faiths in our midst will be reciprocated everywhere.”
The report, Persecuted and Forgotten?, has been produced by Aid to the Church in Need. Report author John Pontifex said: “This report today reveals that persecution of Christians around the world is dramatically on the rise. So much so that it’s estimated that 75 percent of all religious persecution globally is now directed against Christians.
“So we now have a choice. We can do nothing or we can pray and we can act. Aid to the Church in Need chooses to do that latter.
And that is why more and more people – including politicians – are beginning to realise that this issue is perhaps the biggest human rights scandal of our generation and that something had to be done”.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said: “The Persecuted and Forgotten? report and the work of Aid to Church in Need are critical to us as members of the worldwide Christian community. This information will significantly contribute to building international support and solidarity for Christians around the world where our human rights and our religious freedom have been stripped away.
“As the report states, in many countries, like Iraq, the situation for Christians seems to be worsening, sometimes to the point were we wonder if we will survive as a people in our own country. There is no doubt that the political turmoil and growing nationalist struggles in Iraq are contributing to the loss of our religious freedoms.”
Find out more about persecution of Christians in our Country profiles