There was a remarkable debate in the House of Lords on Friday, which I don’t think was widely reported. But it showed that Christians are coming together in a new way to try to influence foreign policy.

John Patten said: “We are facing religious cleansing in parts of the Middle East and may be entering what might be thought of as an Arab winter for Christians, Jews and other minority groups alike on a scale that we have not hitherto seen.”

He suggested that the American government would never tolerate a government which persecuted homosexuals the way that Christians are persecuted across the Middle East: “We must persuade our rulers to treat religious freedoms as being just as basic as other, much vaunted human rights.”

He urged the government also to stand up for the rights of Turkish Christians, which he said they had repeatedly refused to do. Even though Turkey is regarded as a model of secularised and liberal Islam, Christian congregations there complain of harassment and worse, and the British government, said Patten, will not stand up for them.

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