By Fionn Shiner

Rehman Chishti, the Member of the British Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham, has announced that he will be running the London Marathon for a charity that helps persecuted Christians. The Marathon is scheduled for April 26, 2020.

Mr Chishti said he was running for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) because of its “fantastic” work.

The MP, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, said: “The work ACN does is fantastic and I am delighted to highlight the charity in this way, helping support what they do to help Christians persecuted for their faith.”

Chishti, a Muslim, described how he had liaised with the Catholic charity in defense of Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan.

He added: “I worked closely with ACN on the Asia Bibi case and, when the charity brought her family over to the UK in 2018, they invited me to meet them.”

Chishti resigned in November 2018 as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Pakistan, citing the UK’s refusal to grant Asia Bibi sanctuary as one of the reasons for his resignation.

Asia Bibi’s conviction has since been overturned. She is now in Canada with her family.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director ACN (UK), welcomed Chishti’s announcement, saying it was a sign that Christian persecution is being taken more seriously.

He said: “I am delighted that Chishti will run this year’s London Marathon for ACN.

“Not only is it an opportunity to raise money for our projects supporting persecuted Christians, but it will also raise the profile of a vital issue in need of much more recognition.”

Chishti was a keynote speaker at ACN’s #RedWednesday campaign for religious freedom, speaking at events in November at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Whitehall and nearby Westminster Cathedral in his role as special envoy for religious freedom.

At the FCO event, Chishti said: “[The UK Government] will take each recommendation forward.

“It’s a priority for the Prime Minister, it’s a priority for the Foreign Secretary and it’s a priority for me as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.”

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