By Douglas LeBlanc
Four years after the Bishop of Truro led a solicited report on religious persecution, the United Nations Security Council has adopted one of its key recommendations.
Under the resulting policy, the U.N.’s secretary general will offer an annual oral report on threats to international peace and security related to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The first such report is due on June 14, 2024.
At the request of Jeremy Hunt — secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs (2018-19) — Bishop Philip Mounstephen led the research and writing of the report, which provided deeply detailed accounts of persecution across the world.
“I’m delighted by this news of the implementation of one of the key recommendations of the Truro Review — especially in the light of the fact that last year it was deemed unlikely that any Security Council Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief would be possible,” Mounstephen said in a Church of England report.
“That it’s happened is huge credit to the U.K.’s U.N. team and speaks volumes of the U.K.’s commitment to this vital human right. This, along with other recent actions, puts this issue firmly on the international geopolitical table.”
Hunt and Mounstephen introduced the report in 2019
Jeremy Hunt, who now serves as the U.K.’s chancellor of the exchequer, added his praise: “I’m proud and delighted to see this key recommendation of Bishop Philip’s report implemented and send my warm congratulations to the U.K. team at the U.N. on their very impressive work.”
The Truro Review concentrated on persecution of Christians, which it deemed the most frequent threat to what it called Freedom of Religion or Belief. The report acknowledged that threats to FoRB take many forms, including the harassment of irreligious persons:
“The Rohingya community in Myanmar have suffered grievously, as have the Yazidis in Iraq. The Ahmadis have been persecuted since their inception. Whilst it is right to recognize the suffering of Christians in India and China, it would be quite wrong to ignore the persecution of Muslim communities in those countries, including the Uighur Muslims, who have suffered appallingly. In many places in the world it is certainly not safe to admit that you are an atheist. Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced severe persecution historically, and are certainly not free of it today.”
Bishop Mounstephen’s crozier features a black hook that symbolizes the role of a bishop to drive away threats to the well-being of his flock. Mounstephen, previously a leader of the Church Mission Society and the Church Pastoral Aid Society, has taken the role of guardian to a broader scale in his concern for persecuted Christians.
The Truro Review speaks in a brisk voice of indignation about the abuse of people based on their beliefs. “Despite the impression those in the West might sometimes have to the contrary, the Christian faith is not primarily an expression of white Western privilege. If it were we could afford to ignore it — perhaps,” the review says. “But unless we understand that it is primarily a phenomenon of the global south and of the global poor, we will never give this issue the attention it deserves. That is not to patronize, but it is to be realistic. Western voices that are quick to speak up for the world’s poor cannot afford to be blind to this issue.”
There is even a note of humility as the review acknowledges the evergreen reports of violence directed against belief. “The sad fact is that this report will be out of date even by the time that it is published. And such is the sheer scale of the problem that whilst we have ranged widely in our analysis we make no claim to be wholly comprehensive.”