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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Cardinal brands British aid foreign policy 'anti-Christian'

A Roman Catholic cardinal has to accused the British
government of operating an "anti-Christian foreign policy".

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has attacked plans to increase aid to
Pakistan to more than £445m, without any commitment to religious freedom for

Speaking in Glasgow, Cardinal O'Brien called on Foreign
Secretary William Hague to seek human rights guarantees.

The Foreign Office said it raised concerns and lobbied
governments about persecution wherever it arose.

The cardinal's call came as a report by Vatican-approved agency
Aid to the Church in Need suggested 75% of religious persecution around the
world was directed against Christians, affecting 100 million people.

The church highlighted the assassination of Pakistani
minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti at the start of March.

Mr Bhatti was the only Christian member of the cabinet in

We ask that the religious freedoms we enjoy to practice our
faith, will soon be extended to every part of the world”

Cardinal O'Brien said: "I urge William Hague to obtain
guarantees from foreign governments before they are given aid.

"To increase aid to the Pakistan government when
religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedoms
are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy.

"Pressure should now be put on the government of
Pakistan - and the governments of the Arab world as well - to ensure that
religious freedom is upheld, the provision of aid must require a commitment to
human rights."

He said the report's estimate of persecution against
Christians was "intolerable and unacceptable".

"We ask that the religious freedoms we enjoy to
practise our faith, will soon be extended to every part of the world and that
the tolerance we show to other faiths in our midst will be reciprocated
everywhere," he added.

'International solidarity'

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: "Freedom of
religion is a fundamental human right and we condemn and deplore religious
persecution in any form.

"The effective promotion of human rights, including
freedom of religion, is at the heart of our foreign policy."

He said Britain raised concerns and lobbied governments
about religious freedom and persecution wherever it occurred, including in

"It is vital that Pakistan guarantees the rights of all
its citizens, regardless of their faith or ethnicity," he added.

"We will continue to press for religious freedoms to be
upheld in Pakistan and around the world."

The report also highlighted the Christian population of
Iraq, which it says has gone from an estimated 1.4 million to as low as 150,000
over the past 25 years.

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in Iraq, said: "The
Persecuted and Forgotten report and the work of Aid to Church in Need are
critical to us as members of the worldwide Christian community.

"This information will significantly contribute to
building international support and solidarity for Christians around the world
where our human rights and our religious freedom have been stripped away."

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