While Christians in North America and Europe celebrate Christmas by opening gifts and sipping egg nog this weekend, people who share their faith in an estimated 130 countries will be contending with some form of discrimination.

Tens of thousands in Pakistan and China, Sudan and Egypt will risk arrest, torture and death as they seek to mark Christ’s arrival 2,000 years ago.

During the spring federal election, the Conservative party proposed creating an Office of Religious Freedom, a body within the Foreign Affairs Department that would cost an estimated $20 million over four years and seek to safeguard religious minorities abroad.

The government has said it will provide more details on the project in the new year.

There is precedent for such an office. In 1998, the U.S. administration of Bill Clinton signed off on a similar initiative, which had been unanimously approved by Congress after nearly two years of fractious debate.

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