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Persecution of Christians (Iran)

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 18 June 2015

4. What representations the Church of England has made on the protection of Christians from persecution in Iran. (900398)

The Church of England is aware of the plight of the Christian community in Iran and works closely with the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the right Reverend Michael Lewis, and the Bishop of Iran, the right Reverend Azad Marshall, to give support where it can.

The recent report on the persecution of Christians in Iran by Christians in Parliament with the all-party group on religious freedom and belief recounts serious neglect of human rights of Christians in Iran. Surveillance, arbitrary arrests, lashings, torture and severe prison sentences are common. What steps is the Church taking to encourage respect and tolerance for Christians and for those of other minority faiths in Iran and elsewhere in the middle east?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the report produced by the APPG. I attended the meeting at which some of those recommendations were put to a Foreign Office Minister yesterday. The Archbishop of Canterbury invited the Grand Imam of al-Azhar to both Houses of Parliament to express encouragement to religious and political leaders to speak out in support of moderate voices in the region.

May I echo the remarks made by the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce)? It seems to me that one’s right to faith and freedom of religion are fundamental human rights and I am concerned that within the Christian faith, Christian leaders need to do more to educate those who come to worship on a Sunday and do not know that others are denied that right.

The hon. Lady makes an important point. It is important for people of all faiths to encourage one another in a spirit of tolerance. The Grand Imam made the point that the message of Islam and Christianity is enough to build the bridge of continuous understanding. That is what he said in this place.

In 2014, 75 Christians were arrested for their faith, physically and mentally abused, and threatened with execution. What representation has the Church made on behalf of those 75 Christians?

The Church works closely in tandem with the Foreign Office to put diplomatic pressure on countries in which there is abuse of religious freedom. I know that the hon. Gentleman was present at the APPG yesterday and he will have heard the Foreign Office Minister give us encouragement to work together on this.