CARDINAL CRITICISES GOVERNMENT S ANTI-CHRISTIAN FOREIGN POLICY - Monday 14
(Embargoed 12.01am Tuesday 15 March 2011)
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.
Cardinal O Brien s comments come on the day a new audit of human rights
75% of all religious persecution around the world is now directed against
100 million Christians around the world are now facing persecution
The Christian population in some countries is collapsing eg. In the past 25
years the Christian population of Iraq has gone from an estimated 1.4million
to as low as 150,000 now.
Speaking at the Glasgow launch of the report into Christian persecution on
Tuesday 15 March, Cardinal O Brien will say;
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.
Cardinal O Brien continued:
"This report highlights the huge surge in Christians fleeing persecution. It
reveals that 75% 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
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 practice 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
The report has been produced by Aid to the Church in Need, the
Vatican-approved agency that has responsibility for persecuted Christians.
Report author John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need 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% 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's 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.
Catholic Media Office
5 St. Vincent Place
0141 221 1168
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1.You are invited to send a reporter/photographer/news crew to the report
launch on Tuesday 15th March in Glasgow. Time and Location: 11.30am, Tuesday
Market, St Rollox Church, 9 Fountainwell Road, Glasgow, G21 1TN.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, President, Bishops' Conference of Scotland
Archbishop Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Erbil in Iraq.
John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need, Report Author
Case studies of Iraqi Christian refugees to be presented
2. A PDF Summary of the "Persecuted and Forgotten" report is avaliable below.
3. An MP3 audio clip (1m 15s) of Cardinal O'Brien commenting on the report
can be downloaded below
4. Photographs of the report launch will be available from Paul McSherry
following the event - 07770 393960
5. For further information, contact: David Kerr; Media Adviser, Aid to the
Church in Need “ 07854 307338