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Church Commissioners

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Persecution for Religion or Belief

What assessment the Church of England has made of trends in the level of persecution of people for their religion or belief in 2021. (903185)

What assessment the Church of England has made of trends in the level of persecution of people for their religion or belief in 2021. (903188)

What assessment the Church of England has made of trends in the level of persecution of people for their religion or belief in 2021. (903189)

I am enormously grateful to all three of my right hon. and hon. Friends for continuing to bring the House’s attention to the ongoing, horrific levels of persecution of people for their religion or belief.

How concerned is my hon. Friend about the rise of persecution of Christians in India, and is there anything to be done?

My right hon. Friend is right about the reports that keep coming out of India. The Church is pressing the Government to see India as a country of particular concern where targeted sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom may be needed. Overseas development assistance should be used to advance the human rights of people of all faiths in India.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the terrible conflict currently raging in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. There have been disturbing reports of violence against Christians and shocking allegations that priests and nuns have been attacked and killed. What is the Church doing to help ensure that Christians are protected in Tigray and that Ethiopia’s religious diversity is safeguarded?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the situation in Tigray is truly desperate. Both churches and mosques are being attacked and looted and, in some cases, their worshippers killed. Our bishops have raised their concerns forcefully with the Ethiopian ambassador and have asked our Ministers to relay their concerns to the newly elected Ethiopian Government.

In Nigeria, violence against Christians is ongoing. Since December, there have been 10 mass kidnappings and repeated attacks on churches and religious leaders. The week before last, 30 people were killed and 200 homes and four churches were destroyed. What is the Church doing to bring that to global leaders’ attention so that this appalling suffering can be brought to an end?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. We sometimes need to pause for a moment to take in the enormity of what is happening. The Church of England continues to press the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to provide the financial and technical assistance necessary to address these horrendous violations of religious freedom. The Church is also working to enable parliamentarians in Nigeria and elsewhere to hold to account those who perpetuate such horrific violence. These victims will not be forgotten by us.