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House of Commons Hansard
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12 June 2014
Volume 582
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5. What representations the Church of England has made on Meriam Ibrahim. [904163]

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7. What representations the Church of England has made on Meriam Ibrahim. [904165]

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The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England wholeheartedly supported the call from the Christian Muslim Forum for the death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim to be dropped. The Church of England will continue to support the Archbishop of Sudan on this issue.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The plight of Meriam Ibrahim is of great concern to churches throughout the country. St Anne’s parish church, Tottington, in the diocese of Manchester, where I serve as church warden, wrote to the Sudanese embassy two weeks ago setting out our concerns. Will my right hon. Friend urge the leaders of the Church of England to do all they can to keep up the pressure to secure the freedom of this lady?

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My hon. Friend is right, and his constituents demonstrate that this concern is shared throughout the country. I hope that other communities and individuals who feel similarly will also write to the Sudanese embassy and that parliamentary colleagues will support early-day motion 71, tabled in my name, which has support from Members in all parts of the House.

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A number of Pendle residents have contacted me to express their concern about this case and what it means for the Christian community in Sudan. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the issue is that the alleged crime of apostasy is in direct conflict with fundamental human rights, as set out in the UN universal declaration of human rights?

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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and that point was reinforced yesterday by the Prime Minister. Article 18 of the UN universal declaration of human rights seeks to enshrine freedom of religion and the freedom to change one’s religion, whereas the alleged offence of apostasy makes it a hanging offence to change one’s religion. They are clearly incompatible. In international law, fundamental universal UN human rights must prevail.

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The case of Meriam Ibrahim has come to particular public attention because it is so shocking in its detail, but of course she is just one of many people across the world who are being persecuted for their religious faith. What outreach work is the Church of England doing with other Christian Churches in the countries where persecution of Christians is a significant issue?

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As at least two debates in this House in recent months have demonstrated, article 18 of the UN declaration of human rights seems to be an orphaned right. The Church of England and other faith groups have been working hard to ensure that the international community and the UN Human Rights Council pay proper regard and respect to article 18.