On Tuesday the UK government launched its new hate crime action plan. In some respects there were positive aspects to this. For the first time the government recognised that anti-Christian violence actually exists, in contrast to its previous strategy issued four years ago which failed even to acknowledge its existence. However, it appears that this is still merely a token acknowledgement with only a single reference to anti-Christian hatred compared with 15 references to anti-Muslim hatred and seven to anti-Jewish hatred.
We do not in any sense wish to minimise the experiences of hatred endured by members of other groups, but governments really must stop ignoring anti-Christian prejudice and hatred. The actual reference made by the report to anti-Christian hatred focused on a single example – a court case involving the physical abuse and mock crucifixion of a teenager by work colleagues who taunted him on account of his Christian faith. This was a case that we ourselves have raised serious concerns about. However, there is also a much wider, longstanding issue with anti-Christian prejudice and violence in the UK. This particularly concerns extreme violence, kidnapping and death threats made against many Christians who have converted from a Muslim family background in an attempt to force them to reconvert back to Islam. For many years the UK Home Office, which produced this report, has been told about this problem but has chosen to ignore it. The fact that this particular type of violence comes exclusively from within some sections of the Muslim community is perhaps seen by the government as “too problematic” to write about or even address.
In our response to the government’s counter-extremism strategy published last October we urged the government to adopt a strategy to combat forced re-conversion in the same way that they have successfully adopted strategies to combat forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation. However, the fact that they have not even acknowledged the existence of this widespread problem of violence against Christians from a Muslim family background in a report on hate crime is both disappointing and disturbing.