Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, recently spoke out against government plans to double overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million, without requiring any commitment to religious freedom for Christians. The Cardinal has said that conditions should be attached to any aid payments requiring a definite commitment to protection for Christians and other religious minorities, including Shia Muslims.
Writing to the Cardinal, Abba Seraphim told him that he believed this was a fair requirement, as the Coalition government,”appears to give little prominence to the plight of Christian minorities abroad, which is disappointing. Following the papal visit last year I had some hope that Pope Benedict’s message was being listened to by the government. Indeed, many Christians here felt that His Holiness was speaking for us all when he addressed issues about the role of Christians in our society and the need for the government to consider them.
After the bombing of the Coptic Church in Alexandria in January, many people were surprised and disappointed at the tardiness with which our government responded, especially when forceful statements about the Christian minority in Egypt were being made by other world leaders. One fears that the Prime Minister’s concerns when he visited Egypt recently would not have included the plight of the Christian minority.
Mr Cameron recently warned that time is running out to to halt the consolidation of the Gadaffi regime following the revolution in Libya. In this case we have pressed for financial, economic and political sanctions to protect the civil rights of the protesters against an iniquitous autocracy. We recognise that we cannot intervene directly in the affairs of other sovereign states, so we use other means at our disposal to apply pressure for change or reform. Sadly, we have done very little to support Christian minorities in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where British forces and finance underpin the current governments. I am also concerned that recently President Karzai has instigated severe measures against Christian converts and that we have not intervened politically to prevent this.
The assassination in January of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, and more recently of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister of Minorities, both of whom campaigned bravely for a change in the Blasphemy Laws, shows an intolerance towards Christianity which is alarming. Were it a matter only of secular civil liberties one feels that our government would be quick to speak up and demand action, but for some reason religious liberties seem to be unfashionable at the present.” He expressed gratitude for the Cardinal’s example.
Today’s Daily Telegraph also published a letter from Abba Seraphim under the heading “Disregarded Christians” publicly expressing his support for the Cardinal and making many of the above points.