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Christian Celebration of Christmas

Volume 573: debated on Thursday 9 January 2014

10. What recent assessment the Commissioners have made of difficulties faced by Christians in celebrating Christmas in certain parts of the world. (901882)

The House will, I am sure, have noticed that the Archbishop of Canterbury used his first Christmas day sermon to condemn the treatment of Christian communities in the middle east. Archbishop Justin said that the persecution of Christian minorities represented injustice and observed that Christians

“are driven into exile from a region in which their presence has always been essential”.

Sadly, Christians are attacked and massacred, and we have seen terrible news from South Sudan, the Central African Republic and elsewhere, where political ambitions have led to ethnic conflict.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. In the light of the escalation in religious persecution in many countries across the world, will he kindly arrange a meeting with the appropriate Minister and bishop responsible for foreign affairs and international development to highlight the need for the Department for International Development to form a policy to address such issues and that of freedom of religion as a fundamental human right?

I should be happy to do so, but taking human rights violations into account when aid decisions are made does not necessarily mean refusing to give aid to countries in which such violations take place. It may be in precisely these difficult contexts that we need to be engaging with aid, as religious persecution is often linked to problems in education, economic development and conflicts over natural resources where aid can and does make a huge difference. My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point that is worth pursuing with ministerial colleagues in DFID.