I begin by very warmly welcoming the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion and belief. She has campaigned both knowledgeably and forensically on these issues for many years.
The Church is deeply concerned about the unravelling of the state security apparatus in Nigeria and the activity of non-state actors, which is politicising and polarising identity in Nigeria.
A recent Open Doors UK event highlighted that Christians are more likely to be tortured and murdered for their faith by Islamic militants in the north of Nigeria than in any other country. Persecution also includes denying Christians food, aid and treatment for covid-19. The UK Government need to place pressure on the Nigerian Government to defend and protect their Christian population. What is the Church of England’s involvement in supporting these persecuted Christians, and what relief work is it doing with Nigerian internally displaced people camps?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who knows Nigeria well, is monitoring the recent violence and the kidnapping of 300 schoolboys. He and I have met the family of Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2018, and who is still a prisoner, as she refuses to renounce Jesus. Clergy who have spoken out have been threatened by prominent civil society organisations, and the Church continues to stay closely involved.