There’s a neat new book out co-authored by Brian Binley MP, Dr Lee Rotherham and Lord Tebbit entitled A Spotter’s Guide to Sound Government Policies – “a platform for the next Government” to “put the (Conservative) party back on track”. It includes this important policy proposal for targeted aid for oppressed and persecuted Christians (with a gracious nod to His Grace):
Charity is a central part of the Muslim faith. Zakat, or alms giving, is one of the five pillars of faith. However, opinion is divided on its beneficiaries and priority (if not exclusivity, depending on the interpretation) is given to Muslims and their sympathisers. This explains why many Islamic charities give predominantly to Muslim countries. It’s also a marked difference with Christians that works to the latter’s credit. The Good Samaritan did not differentiate.
Christians today in many countries are being targeted and persecuted. Though it may be predominantly the reader’s likely co-religionaries, it is not just Christians who are subject to persecution, but members of other faiths and indeed non-believers too who also need help. More support should be given from the UK’s International Aid budget, including where it is needed providing funds for basic security provision. In certain cases, DfID aid might make more play of co-opting key religious leaders locally to act as intermediaries. If they can assist in planning and directing aid, some credit may be attributed to them that merits reciprocation and encourages wider reconciliation.
What is remarkable though is how dependent the provision of aid currently is on individual ministers. Civil servants are peculiarly nervous about supplying support to such victims. That is wrong: aid should go just as readily to oppressed Christians as to other minorities that are currently being helped by the FCO and DfID, such as in support of gay rights. Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights covers religious persecution too.
Of course there needs to be sensible management in this to ensure that no sense of a privileged religious minority closely associated with outsiders might develop. But with an aid budget of £10.6bn there’s room for subtle strategic support here.
Further reading: Christianophobia, Rupert Shortt, Civitas, 2012; and the ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ blog coverage of Canon Andrew White’s astonishing work in Iraq
There is much more that could be said on this, but in the FCO and DfID, brevity is often the soul of policy-making, and the Binley/Rotherham/Tebbit approach has much to commend it.