Freedom of religion and belief is one of the Government’s core human rights priorities. We try to help Christians facing persecution overseas through our bilateral diplomacy and our participation in international organisations, most notably the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Christians suffer the most persecution globally, and many of my constituents with relatives in Syria and Iraq, and Church groups, rightly campaign to highlight that. People of different faiths and atheists are at risk in different parts of the world. What more can the UK do to promote more collaboration between faith communities to promote more religious tolerance?
Obviously, the approach that is likely to work best will vary from one country to another, but we do, for example, through the Department for International Development, fund a number of programmes that try to help community and religious leaders in particular conflict-torn parts of the world to learn the importance of religious tolerance and to apply that within their own societies.
Given this country’s excellent record in defending liberty abroad, may I strongly encourage Ministers to make religious freedom a strategic priority, as proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Religious Liberty Commission?
We certainly continue to treat religious freedom and the freedom of people to express their beliefs as a core element of our broader human rights agenda. It is often Christian communities themselves who say that it helps them if their own concerns are presented within that broader human rights context.