Ann Widdecombe: UK aid policy should help persecuted Christians

Anne Widdecombe. Credit: Stuart Wilson-Getty Images Entertainment-Getty Images
Anne Widdecombe. Credit: Stuart Wilson-Getty Images Entertainment-Getty Images

.- Former British politician Ann Widdecombe criticized Prime Minister David Cameron for axing foreign aid to countries that persecute gays while overlooking widespread threats to Christians.

“David Cameron’s government have threatened to cut the overseas aid budget for countries which persecute homosexuals,” Widdecombe said in London at an Oct. 22 conference for the international charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“Fair enough. But what about Christians? When do we qualify for such protection or don’t we?”

Widdecombe, a Catholic convert who represented the Conservative Party as a Member of Parliament from 1987 to 2007, contrasted the government’s pro-gay overseas aid policy with its stance on some countries' state-sponsored violence against Christians.

Recently named a “special envoy on religious freedom” for Aid to the Church in Need, Widdecombe gave the keynote address at the event titled “The Arab Spring: A Spring or Autumn for Christians?”

During her speech, she noted that in Pakistan, where U.K. aid will double to 350 million British pounds per year, Christian Asia Bibi has been sentenced to death for blasphemy—a case that has drawn international condemnation. 

Meanwhile, U.K. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has cut the country's aid to Malawi after two homosexual men were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.

“In the last 10 years, how many debates have there been on persecution of Christians, how many government statements on the subject?” Widdecombe asked.

“You stand a better chance of earnest representation if you are a hedgehog—and I speak as a patron of the Hedgehog Protection Society.”

The former MP's comments come in the wake of the Oct. 9 attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt, that left 25 dead and over 300 injured.

Aid to the Church in Need reported that in 2011, 75 percent of all religious persecution worldwide was directed against Christians and noted that around 105,000 Christians are killed every year for faith-related reasons.

In Iraq alone, the Christian population has plummeted from 1.4 million to around 150,000.

The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations said that since the fall of President Mubarak in February more than 100,000 Christians had fled the country because of a surge in violence against religious minorities.

Widdecombe strongly appealed to her government to make the defense of religious freedom a foreign policy priority.

“Today we should all begin to act. Each of us should pick one country, pray for it, donate to the Church there, write to (U.K. Foreign Secretary) William Hague and the local MP.”


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