The Church of England is grateful to all those who carry the flame for the freedom of religion or belief. I would point to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as a reliable source of information in this area. In its 2020 report it singles out China, Eritrea, India, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam as countries of particular concern.
The global pandemic has only exacerbated the persecution of people of faith. I was dismayed to learn from this year’s world watch list that Nigeria has become increasingly hostile to Christians. The Anglican Church in Nigeria is its second-largest congregation in the world, so what support is the Church of England providing to raise awareness and to tackle persecution in Nigeria and around the world?
The persistent attacks in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram and Islamist militia are a source of profound concern to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who knows Nigeria well, and to the wider Church. We are in regular contact with the Nigerian authorities and the Foreign Office, and tomorrow the General Synod of the Church of England will be debating freedom of religion and belief, which shows how seriously Church members throughout the country take this issue.