It gives me very great pleasure, on behalf of the whole of the Church of England, to thank my hon. Friend for her hard work as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, and also to congratulate our mutual friend, David Burrowes, on his appointment as her deputy. The Church looks forward to working with her over the coming months to deliver a successful international ministerial meeting in London in July, which will make a real difference to those who suffer because of their faith or belief.
I thank my hon. Friend for those words and welcome the international opportunities to champion freedom of religion or belief at the ministerial conference in London in July, which I am very proud that the UK is hosting, and at the Lambeth conference. Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the motion of the diocese of Lichfield at the forthcoming General Synod that the Church of England not only prays for the persecuted Church, but that its dioceses offer support to link dioceses in parts of the world where the Church is facing persecution, and that the next Lambeth conference addresses the issues of the persecution of Christians?
I am only sorry that, unusually, our hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is not in his place to hear my hon. Friend’s praise for his diocese. She is absolutely right that the Church of England’s diocesan links around the globe or Anglican Communion enable that practical help to flow to those who are suffering because of their faith while also developing a greater awareness of this horrendous persecution. I also hope that she will engage directly with the bishops from areas of persecution at the Lambeth conference later this year.
Many of my constituents have written to me to express their concern about the persecution of Christians across the world. In particular, Newcastle boasts a large number of Nigerian diaspora Christians who are concerned following the launch of the Open Doors’ World Watch List. What can local churches do to support the promotion of freedom of religion across the world with the Church of England?
I am particularly grateful to the hon. Lady for mentioning Nigeria, because the situation there, in many cases, is extremely challenging for Christians. One practical thing that she could do is to get the Open Doors’ World Watch List—the map—and send it to all the churches in her constituency, so that they can put it in their porch to make sure that everyone is aware of the situation. That will help them hold her to account, and we all need to hold the Government and those other countries to account to make sure that freedom of religion and belief holds.