I can think of no better time than Holy week to bring the issue of Christian persecution across the globe to the attention of our readers.

The Bible tells us that this was the time that Jesus suffered greatly both physically and mentally, knowing the death he would face on Good Friday, and so it seems very appropriate to focus on the great suffering that continues today for Christians around the World.

On Monday of this week, I discussed this issue in the House of Lords with a debate I brought there, and I wanted to repeat some of the salient points in this, my local paper.

Every year, the Open Doors organisation compiles a report which sets out the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian – this year, the research found that more than 365 million Christians suffer elevated levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith – that’s around one in seven Christians worldwide.

As Christians in the UK, we may sometimes feel marginalised, but to hear that our brothers and sisters in Christ are persecuted for their faith in the manner outlined by Open Doors was shocking.

And yet there is so very little spoken about such persecution – this is something which needs to change.

Back at Christmas in 2018, the then Bishop of Truro was asked by the then Foreign Secretary to carry out a review into the global persecution of Christians; to map the extent and the nature of the persecution; to assess the quality of the Government response; and finally, to recommend changes in policy and practice to deal with the issue.

The comprehensive final report which was published in June, 2019, noted that the problem was indeed a global phenomenon.

It said that the Western response to the problem however was no doubt tinged by a certain post-Christian bewilderment, if not embarrassment, about matters of faith.

There was, the report noted, a consequential failure to grasp how for the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, faith is not only a primary marker of identity, but also a primary motivation for action both for good and ill.

Religious persecution occurs to a third of the world’s population in some form with Christians being the most persecuted group, even though freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right.

To make thing worse, global persecution of Christians is under-reported, and therefore is not highlighted and responded to in an adequate way.

As we come to celebrate Easter in the Christian calendar, and all the events which took place in Jerusalem in that Holy week, we should be paying more attention and doing something about the fact that Christianity now faces being wiped out in parts of the Middle East, where its roots go back the furthest.

In the birthplace of Christ, Christian numbers are at 1.5 per cent of the population.

Rarely do we hear about this small Christian minority who are struggling to be heard, let alone helped.

In Iraq, the population of Christians has plummeted from 1.5 million to now just over 100,000.

Christianity, which has provided much-needed plurality in the region, is disappearing, and apart from the tragedy which that is for those Christian communities, it also has a destabilising impact on the Middle East.

This issue of stability and security was a theme explored by the Open Doors launch this year.

The title of this year’s report was, ‘The cost of collapse and the cost of control’, and the report indicated that under the cover of state fragility and failure, violence against Christians has intensified in many parts of the world, whilst elsewhere autocratic countries also increase their control.

By way of example, as Sub-Saharan Africa becomes more unstable, religiously-motivated violence is intensifying.

In 18 of the 26 Sub-Saharan countries, 4,606 Christians were killed because of their faith during the 2024 reporting period, and the growing violence is causing a displacement crisis as more and more Christians are forced to flee their homes.

Of great concern to me is that this displacement of Christians is also happening in India, where more than 62,000 Indian Christians were forced to flee their homes during the 2024 reporting period – that is a huge jump, from 380 in 2022, and 834 in 2023.

A sub section, if I may describe it as such, of the persecution of Christians is the treatment of women – put simply, Christian women are more likely to be the victims of discrimination and persecution than their male counterparts.

This could be through people trafficking, gender-based violence, kidnapping, forced marriage and other gender-based discrimination.

This double marginalisation – being a woman and a Christian – is again underreported as women are often invisible in such societies, and poorly represented.

For example, there is evidence from Pakistan of Christian girls being groomed, trafficked into sham marriages, and being forced to convert to become Muslims.

As I said earlier, freedom of religion and belief is a key human right, but sadly ignored in many parts of the world, especially in those areas of conflict.

We have a proud history of promoting religious freedom, and therefore we should be doing more to promote it across the world.

For me, freedom of religion is almost a passport to securing other human rights, such as the right to family life, and the right to privacy.

If freedom of religion is not protected, then other rights will be overlooked and ignored as well.

Our foreign policy must recognise the needs of religious minorities in formulating conflict and stabilisation policies.

In the debate on Monday evening, I urged the Minister to implement those recommendations of the Truro Report which remain outstanding.

I look forward to the Government establishing the role of the Prime Minister’s special Envoy on Freedom of Religious Belief in statute, and to include mandatory religious literacy into the training of all Foreign Office staff.

For me, this is particularly important given that, sad to say, we cannot take for granted that our civil servants have a working understanding of Christianity.

We also need to recognise that there is according to the Truro Report, a reluctance from some diplomats to raise the issue of Christian persecution for fear of upsetting local administrations.

I am bound to say that there does not appear to be that reluctance when it comes to other issues which may cause cultural offence locally.

Our civil servants need to be better equipped to deal with issues of freedom of religion, and I hope that the debate we had on Monday evening will encourage the Government to assume a global leadership role on the prevention of Christian persecution across the globe.

Happy Easter to you all.