Is Britain's foreign policy anti-Christian?

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Niccolo and Donkey
Is Britain's foreign policy anti-Christian? Not particularly: we just don't care

Telegraph UK

Damian Thompson

March 15, 2011

Britain’s plans to increase foreign aid to Pakistan while the country turns a blind eye to religious persecution is “tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy”, says Cardinal Keith O’Brien. Needless to say, those words “tantamount to” haven’t made it into many news reports, but they weren’t intended to. He knows how to grab a headline, does +Keith Patrick, unlike his risk-averse opposite number in Westminster.

Still, “tantamount to” is actually right. Britain is not deliberately pursuing an anti-Christian foreign policy. But we don’t waste time worrying about foreign Christians when we’re distributing largesse to Islamic countries that make life hell for non-Muslim minorities.

If you want an insight into the way ambitious Foreign Office staff think about British Christianity, cast your mind back to their plans for the Pope’s visit: they wanted him to launch a range of “Benedict” condoms, open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage. “But we were joking,” they said afterwards. That I can believe: ask their private opinion of the Churches, and in many cases you’ll be greeted with the curled lip of a stand-up comic. As for Christians in the Middle East, I suspect the response might be: “You mean there are Christians in the Middle East?”

DfID isn’t much better. Understandably, it sees Christianity in the Islamic world through the eyes of Christian charities whose focus is on development. Those charities tend to be Left-leaning and work closely with – or even subsidise – Muslim charities. It would be interesting to know how often the subject of the persecution of Christians comes up in conversations between DfID and CAFOD.

As I said in a blog post the other day , the increasingly desperate situation of Christians in Islamic countries commands the full attention of very few British public figures: Lord Alton and Baroness Cox ask endless questions about it in the Lords, but these provoke yawns from their fellow politicians and indifference in Whitehall.

I suppose we should be encouraged that Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister responsible for the Middle East, has responded to Lord Alton’s prodding by expressing what seems to be genuine concern about this issue. But we’ll need more than rhetorical acknowledgment of the plight of Christians if – as the increase in attacks on Copts in Egypt suggests – some of the new Arab “democracies” decide to indulge in a little religious cleansing.