Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

Mark made the following interventions in a debate on Christians in the Middle East tabled by the DUP. You can read the text of the whole debate here.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

It is greatly to the credit of the Democratic Unionist party that it has secured this debate. Let us be honest: if this were happening to almost any other religious group it would be something of a national scandal. That makes it all the more important to put the ongoing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world on the political map. This debate will do that in the next two and three quarter hours

Jim Shannon (Strangford, DUP)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I think the rest of the debate will reflect that tone.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

I accept that view, but would the Minister acknowledge the depressing paradox that some of the worst persecution is taking place in notional democracies? In some cases, the Christian population would be better looked after under a dictatorship—such as in Syria under President Assad—than in a country that is notionally democratic. This is not simply a matter of saying that a whole load of democratic rights will follow on from religious freedoms. We must ensure that religious and individual freedoms go hand in hand and that they do not find themselves in conflict with each other.

Mark Simmonds (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Boston and Skegness, Conservative)

My hon. Friend makes an important point, although he will be aware that we believe that President Assad’s regime in Syria has engaged in a deliberate attempt to stir up tensions between religious groups in order to hold on to power. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that these issues are extremely complex, but there is a direct correlation between the rule of law, human rights, transparency and freedom of expression as it relates to religion, whether it be Christianity, any other religion or no religion at all.