Yes, stand up for Christianity... and all other faiths too
Published 05/12/2013 | 09:30
You have to respect the DUP for giving over one of their precious opposition days to the persecution of Christians around the world. On Tuesday, MPs had three hours to talk about the shocking violence Christians face.
Jim Shannon (above) made a memorable speech at the start of the debate. A Christian is killed every 11 minutes somewhere on earth for their faith. Christianity is the most persecuted religion globally.
"Let us go right across the world, from North Korea, where it is estimated that some 100,000 Christians suffer in horrific prison camps, to Eritrea, where 2,000 Christians are in jail for their beliefs and 31 died in custody last year," he said.
Only a few Labour backbenchers attended the debate, as Lady Hermon pointed out in her own inimitable style: politely outraged.
So it was left to DUP and Tory members to take issue with the refusal of both frontbenches to concede to a foreign policy that was specifically concerned with Christian persecution.
Nigel Dodds complained that it was "no good to sit back and pretend that there is no particular problem".
He added: "We need to highlight that and not feel guilty, or feel that we must be politically correct all the time."
Tony Baldry, who as a Church Estates Commissioner is, in effect, the Church of England's spokesman in the Commons, took umbrage with his own minister.
"A step-change and something different is required in response to the fact that 200 million Christians are now threatened with persecution, the loss of the right to practise their faith and the loss of their livelihoods, homes and even lives," he said.
If the vast majority of faith-based persecution is towards Christians, then surely the DUP are right and it makes sense for the UK to be a global advocate for Christians.
But the world looks very different when you are in China, where there are a staggering 60 million Christians, but also Muslims and Buddhists, who are being oppressed by the communist authorities.
For the DUP, the debate should serve as a reminder that, while Northern Ireland isn't a multi-cultural society, the UK as a whole really is.
It is not 'political correctness' that dictates why the Foreign Office and the Labour Party both want a policy that regards the persecution of any religion by any religion as equally reprehensible.
English MPs, in particular, represent constituencies where all religions live in peace side-by-side. And fall in love, get married and have children.
Forty per cent of Londoners aren't white. More than 300 languages are spoken in the capital every day.
For those people, Muslims being persecuted for changing their religion, or gay people being sentenced to death in Iran, or black kids being stabbed on the streets of their city, are all equally horrific.
They expect their Government to speak up about all these atrocities and for Christians, too.
Still, it was hard not to be moved by the sincerity of Jim Shannon when he said: "The persecution of Christians is an important matter. Let us pray for them and let us do our best for them as elected representatives in this House."