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Volume 587: debated on Thursday 30 October 2014

The Church of England is taking a significant role in tackling extremism by supporting the work of the Government and by working through its own networks of local communities and the wider international Anglican communion.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the sentence of death by hanging announced last week on Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five young children who has already spent four years in jail in Pakistan under that country’s unacceptable blasphemy laws? Will my right hon. Friend join me and others in the House in sending out a clear message to the Government of Pakistan that they must review this case?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. This is a terrible, grim and desperate case. I fear that it is a stain on the reputation of Pakistan that this young woman should have been in prison for such a long time.

Far too often around the world, cases of apostasy and the way in which blasphemy laws are used in some cases, as in Pakistan, are a complete offence against the principles of the United Nations charter on freedom of religion. We all need to take every opportunity to express to the Pakistani high commissioner in London and the Government of Pakistan how desperate and sad the world is to see that Pakistan has not managed to resolve that case more swiftly.

One of the biggest concerns of the Christian Churches in Pendle at the moment is the persecution of Christian communities by ISIS. Has the Church of England made any assessment of the threat of ISIS to religious minorities in the region?

Only the other day, the Archbishop of Canterbury commented that Christianity is at risk of being completely eliminated from the whole of the Levant. I know that he is in discussions with faith leaders from across the middle east to see how we can work together to try to ensure that some religious tolerance returns as swiftly as possible.

The situation is desperate: the world appears to be going backwards, away from the high principles of the United Nations charter of 1945 and towards a situation in which intolerance, rather than tolerance, is increasingly becoming the norm.