Christian leaders are applauding UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to stop sending aid to countries that persecute Christians and ban homosexuality.
“When the UK is setting aid budgets and is in discussion with other governments, religious freedom – in particular the persecution of Christians – should always be highlighted and discussed,” said Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of Aid to the Church in Need’s (ACN) UK office.
Cameron said the decision was a move to protect basic human rights worldwide.
“Britain is one of the premier aid givers in the world,” Cameron said to the BBC. “We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights.”
Up to 75 percent of the religious persecution in the world is against Christians, according to a recent report. In addition, more than 40 members of the British Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality.
“ACN agrees that the persecution of homosexuals is totally unacceptable – as is the persecution of Christians and people of other faiths,” Kyrke-Smith said.
Cameron’s remarks were meant to spark the beginning of change to these two issues, the Prime Minister said.
“This is an issue where we are pushing for movement, we are prepared to put some money behind what we believe. But I’m afraid that you can’t expect countries to change overnight,” Cameron said to the BBC.
Christians have come under attack in China, Iran, Burma, Egypt, Pakistan and other countries around the world.
It is unclear how the pledge will affect specific countries around the globe.
British aid to Pakistan was expected to double this year to 350 million British pounds, according to reports. But the country is at the center of a controversy over its persecution of Christians under a loosely defined blasphemy law.
At least 35 Christians have been killed since 1986 under the country’s blasphemy laws, according to reports.
It is unclear how much money the UK will withhold from Pakistan and other governments, since the issues are so widespread.
The first countries affected by the change could be Malawi, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana, according to reports.
Christian leaders maintain that a good human rights’ record is imperative when choosing which countries to send aid to.
“If governments are responsible for persecution or are failing to take obvious steps to prevent it, their approach raises huge questions about whether they can be trusted to give help to the poorest and most needy in society,” Kyrke-Smith said.