The Church of England has regular meetings with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office about countries where people are persecuted for their faith or belief, so that our Government can raise these vital issues with the Governments of the countries concerned. The Church also engages with our heads of mission, civil society groups and, where possible, with the foreign Governments in question.
Congregants at one of Aylesbury’s churches are deeply concerned about Christian charities in India being forbidden from receiving funds from overseas, amid reports of persecution based on faith. Such organisations often help some of the most vulnerable people in Indian society, so will my hon. Friend tell me what steps the Church of England is taking to help Christian charities and to stop faith-based persecution, both in India and elsewhere?
The Church of North India and the Church of South India seek to comply with Indian law in this respect. Pressure from outside India may make the situation worse for those who receive funds. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office should make the Indian Government aware of the impact of such restrictions on Indian citizens. In the past, I have visited the Indian high commissioner in London with a cross-party group of MPs, all of us friends of India, to successfully raise a similar issue; my hon. Friend might like to consider such a visit.
Some 83% of the world’s population live in countries where freedom of religion or belief is not adequately respected. This freedom is essential for societies to secure democratic freedoms, economic development and peace, yet many people, including young people, are unaware of its importance. What is the Church of England doing to help to educate young people about the importance of freedom of religion or belief for all?
It is a great pleasure to reply to my hon. Friend, the Prime Minister’s new envoy for freedom of religion or belief. The Church of England strongly supports educating young people to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for everyone globally. We are working with schools in the Gambia and, indeed, in Pakistan and Bangladesh to do exactly that, to help young people be advocates for freedom of religion or belief in their schools, families and communities.