Cardinal claims govt policy ‘anti-Christian’

By staff

William Hague has been accused of “anti-Christian” policies that fail to promote religious freedom.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, said the government’s refocused aid programme – which will focus aid in conflict areas – will not benefit Christians or religious minorities.

He said the foreign secretary should not have increased aid to Pakistan to over £445 million without seeking assurances on religious freedom.

Earlier this month Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian minister in the Pakistani government, was assassinated.

Speaking at the launch of a report into the persecution of Christians around the world, the cardinal urged the government to attach requirements on religious freedom to all aid commitments.

“To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy,” Cardinal O’Brien said.

“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.”

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said the government shared the cardinal’s concerns on religious persecution.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and we condemn and deplore religious persecution in any form,” he said.

“Britain raises concerns about religious freedom wherever they arise, including in Pakistan, through the intervention of ministers or our embassies and high commissions.

“We lobby governments about individual cases where persecution or discrimination occurs, and call for changes in discriminatory practices and laws in countries where freedom of religion is curtailed.”