Over 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for more action to stop the forced conversion and marriage of Christian women and girls.
The petition, organised by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), was handed to Fiona Bruce MP at the Houses of Parliament in the run-up to Christmas.
It follows the release of ACN’s annual report on persecution, Hear Her Cries, which this year highlighted the threat to Christian women and girls of kidnapping, forced conversions and sexual violence.
Mrs Bruce said: “I am extremely grateful to ACN for highlighting the plight of minority faith girls suffering forced conversion and forced marriage.
“I find it very distressing that girls and young women suffer in this way. In my role, I am committed to action to stop this denial of freedom which impacts the lives of so many young girls in such a fundamental way.”
Accompanying Mrs Bruce for the hand-over of the petition were Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh, Scottish National Party MP Dr Lisa Cameron and Morris Johns, secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Working Group for Pakistan Minorities.
The parliamentarians have all actively campaigned for the protection of Christians and other minority women and girls in contexts of persecution.
They also back ACN’s campaign appealing to Home Secretary Priti Patel to grant asylum to Pakistani Christian teenager Maira Shahbaz who escaped from a man who abducted her, forced her to convert to Islam and marry him. She is now in hiding with her family because of death threats.
Sir Edward said more needed to be done to support persecuted women and girls.
“Be it in Pakistan, Nigeria, Mozambique, and many other countries besides, we are seeing an epidemic of acts of cruelty and brutality in which young Christian and other faith minority girls and women suffer – and far too little is being done to stop it,” he said.
Dr Cameron, vice chair of the Foreign Affairs All-Party Parliamentary Working Group, said she plans to meet Moazzam Ahmad Khan, Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, to discuss the issue.
“I have a teenage daughter myself and I am personally committed to rooting out this appalling cycle of violence and denial of religious freedom,” she said.