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CONSERVATIVE stalwart Ann Widdecombe has attacked David Cameron for failing to act as tough on the persecution of Christians as he does on the abuse of homosexuals.

The former Prisons Minister claims the Government is operating double standards by threatening to cut aid to countries where people are persecuted because of their sexuality while “turning a blind eye” in areas where there is state-sponsored violence towards Christians.

The ex-Conservative MP, who is now a special envoy on religious freedom, claims even hedgehogs get a better deal from the Government.

In a speech due to be given today at the annual conference of international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), she will say: “David Cameron’s Government have threatened to cut the overseas aid budget for countries which persecute homosexuals.

“Fair enough. But what about Christians? When do we qualify for such protection or don’t we?

“You stand a better chance of earnest representation if you are a hedgehog – and I speak as a patron of the Hedgehog Protection Society.

“In the last 10 years, how many debates have there been on persecution of Christians, how many government statements on the subject?”

Miss Widdecombe, a convert to Roman Catholicism in 1993, will call for Christians to pressure the Government and their local MPs into action.

“Today we should all begin to act.

“Each of us should pick one country, pray for it, donate to the Church there, write to (UK Foreign Secretary) William Hague and the local MP.

“We should make it our business to follow reports about persecuted Christians – especially through the work of Aid to the Church in Need.”

ACN claims there have been several recent cases of religious persecution internationally that support Miss Widdecombe’s claims.

They include reports of church leaders in Egypt last week accusing the regime of an unprovoked attack that killed 25 people, mostly Coptic Christians. Eyewitnesses claimed many of those who died were either shot by soldiers or run over by speeding army vehicles.

ACN also cites the case in Pakistan – where UK aid is set to swell – of Christian labourer Asia Bibi on death row for blasphemy.

She was sentenced for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed in a case which laid bare the potential threat to the minority Christian community.

In March, the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was murdered by Islamist fanatics for opposing the blasphemy laws.

Two months earlier, Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was killed by a bodyguard over the same issue. After the assassination, his confessed killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, was greeted with showers of rose petals from many lawyers who went to watch his initial court hearing.

ACN claims that against that backdrop, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has cut UK aid to Malawi after two homosexual men were sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour.

ACN’s UK director Neville Kyrke-Smith said: “The persecution of Christians is a critical issue which we will be addressing on Saturday in a series of talks. It is a sell-out event – which must stimulate debate and action.”

A Government spokesman said: “The UK Government is at the forefront of work to promote human rights around the world, and regularly criticises governments which violate those rights. This includes working to end religious intolerance, and persecution and discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexuality.”

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