How much aid did the UK government give to countries where Christians are persecuted in 2012?

Earlier this week Open Doors published their annual World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.  You can read more of Open Doors’ analysis and stories behind the numbers in this post I produced following their press release.

Last year following the publication of the 2012 list I looked into the level of aid the UK Government gives to those countries on the list.  This has since become my second most popular post of all time, so it makes sense to provide an update for this year’s data.  All the figures have been taken directly from the Department for International Aid’s (DFID’s) website.

The number in brackets is the amount of bilateral aid (rounded to the nearest £m) given directly by the UK through the DFID’s aid programme:

  1. North Korea (0)
  2. Saudi Arabia (0)
  3. Afghanistan (146)
  4. Iraq (3)
  5. Somalia (101)
  6. Maldives (0)
  7. Mali (0)
  8. Iran (0)
  9. Yemen (34)
  10. Eritrea (4)
  11. Syria (0)
  12. Sudan (33)
  13. Nigeria (161)
  14. Pakistan (212)
  15. Ethiopia (324)
  16. Uzbekistan (0)
  17. Libya (8)
  18. Laos (1)
  19. Turkmenistan (0)
  20. Qatar (0)
  21. Vietnam (37)
  22. Oman (0)
  23. Mauritania (0)
  24. Tanzania (138)
  25. Egypt (0)
  26. United Arab Emirates (0)
  27. Brunei (0)
  28. Bhutan (0)
  29. Algeria (0)
  30. Tunisia (0)
  31. India (284)
  32. Myanmar (0)
  33. Kuwait (0)
  34. Jordan (0)
  35. Bahrain (0)
  36. Palestinian Territories (53)
  37. China (0)
  38. Azerbaijan (0)
  39. Morocco (0)
  40. Kenya (98)
  41. Comoros (0)
  42. Malaysia (0)
  43. Djibouti (0)
  44. Tajikistan (7)
  45. Indonesia (12)
  46. Colombia (0)
  47. Uganda (77)
  48. Kazakhstan (0)
  49. Kyrgyzstan (5)
  50. Niger (<1)

This comes to a total of £1.74 billion, which represents 56 per cent of the DFID’s £3.11 billion bilateral aid budget in 2012.  With the giving of aid in this volume, the UK government has the potential to exert a large amount of pressure on some of these countries over the persecution of Christians if it were to choose to do so.

Back in December the The Foreign Office held an international conference on combating intolerance and promoting freedom of religion for all.  Part of their press release prior to the conference stated that:

‘Promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief is a key human rights priority for the British government.  Freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is one of the fundamental freedoms that underpins other human rights and is a key building block of any democracy.  It is not only vital to the identity of believers, but to those without a faith too.  

‘Where individuals are not free to practice their faith, generally other freedoms are under attack too. Governments have a key role to play in creating the conditions for all to practice their religion freely.’

Though these words are extremely encouraging, the evidence of the UK government putting these words into practice unfortunately is very limited.  It is vitally important that Governments in free societies do what they can to promote freedom of religion for believers of all faiths.  It is also important to acknowledge that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and you can’t talk with any authority on the subject of religious freedom without addressing this fact.

The Government has expressed the importance of freedom of religion, but this needs to be matched by a  determination to put this freedom at the heart of foreign policy if its words are to have any credibility.  Cutting off aid to countries with poor human rights records is not necessarily a sensible approach in most cases, but overseas aid has the potential to be used as a key tool to exert influence on countries who are the recipients of it.  The Government has an outstanding record on its commitment to foreign aid.  What we need to see is similar levels of commitment towards religious freedom that millions of people around the world have been deprived of often at great cost to themselves and their families.

In 2011 the Conservative party’s Human Rights Commission produced a report on international religious freedom giving eleven recommendations of how the Government should promote it worldwide more effectively.  No one can say that the issue hasn’t been considered at length.  Certainly it’s far from simple to address, but isn’t it time we saw some genuine movement by the Government to make religious freedom the priority they say it is?

Categories: Government, Overseas aid, Persecution

Tags: , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Funny how they jump to attention when a couple of gays are persecuted…… but millions of Christians? Nah..

  2. I think perhaps the world watch list is too simplistic and liable to give a false picture of each country.. Sure in Saudi Arabia we would expect to see it high in the rankings as persecution of Christians is a state policy. But other countries the persecution is beyond the control or ability of the state. For example Uganda is 84% Christian yet hits the top 50. As far as I can see the persecution comes from Islamist activity and I can’t see any point in including Uganda.

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