BosNewsLife

The persecution watchdog of Britain's largest body of evangelical Christians has condemned the deadly Easter bombing in Pakistan and urged the British government to act immediately to "enshrine freedom of religion or belief" in its foreign policy.

The Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the Evangelical Alliance UK, which represents two million evangelicals, told BosNewsLife that the suicide attacks in a park in Pakistan's second largest city, Lahore, "deliberately targeted Christians".

"We are encouraged that (Cameron) recognises that religious freedom is a fundamental right for everyone, and is an essential part of a free society, and we hope that this recognition will be expressed strongly in foreign policy."

- RLC spokesman David Landrum

As this was part of "the many other atrocities carried out around the world against people of faith" the RLC said the government should "greatly increase the status of freedom of religion or belief" across all foreign policy "in recognition of the essential role it plays in underpinning other human rights and civil liberties."

The RLC also asked the government to "substantially increase the capacity of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office" (FCO) to promote religious freedom worldwide. "Much has been done to secure freedoms and challenge injustice, but so much more could be achieved with an increase in staff and resources."

It was also crucial for the FCO to spread religious knowledge among government departments, the group added. Sunday’s "tragic events" in Lahore highlight the persecution that Christians are currently facing in many countries, including North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, the RLC noted in a statement.

“At a time when so many parts of the world are experiencing oppression by those who wish to deny or destroy religious freedom, our hope is that Britain can strengthen its record of promoting human rights by placing freedom of religion or belief at the heart of foreign policy,” said RLC spokesman David Landrum.

The RLC, which also includes advocacy groups Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, and Release International, welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron's Easter message "calling for the defence of Christian values" amid terrorism.

"It is heartening that Mr Cameron has acknowledged the suffering of the Christian Church across the world,” Landrum said.

Though Christians "are the most persecuted faith community in the world" they are not alone in facing persecution, the RLC acknowledged.

Yet, “We are encouraged that (Cameron) recognises that religious freedom is a fundamental right for everyone, and is an essential part of a free society, and we hope that this recognition will be expressed strongly in foreign policy,” Landrum added.

Meanwhile, DAVID ADAMS reports that more than 5,000 people were detained by authorities in Pakistan in the wake of the attack. About 200 remain in detention.

More than 70 people were killed in the attack which targeted Christians meeting in a park on Easter Sunday to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At least of those killed were reportedly children. The attack has since been claimed by Taliban splinter group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA).

The suicide bombing, which occurred when many were leaving the park, was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since 134 students were killed at a school in 2014. That attack was claimed by the Taliban.