Thank you for contacting me about the worldwide persecution of Christians. While I endeavour to attend as many events as possible, it is not possible, unfortunately, to attend all of them. However, I do recognise, as I am sure most people do, just how much this issue matters and I will follow developments as closely as possible. Moreover, MPs are able to meet Ministers frequently and make their constituents’ concerns known.
My ministerial colleagues and I are committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. Indeed, promoting the right to FoRB is one of the UK's longstanding human rights priorities.
That is why I am glad the Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians, conducted by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, was published in 2019.
The Government has committed to implementing the Bishop’s 22 recommendations in full, and work continues to implement them in a way that will bring real improvements in the lives of those persecuted because of their faith or belief. Of the 22 recommendations, the UK has fully delivered 10, made good progress on a further 8, and ministers are confident that all 22 will be delivered by the time of the independent review in 2022.
I welcome the appointment of Fiona Bruce MP as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to drive forward this agenda. Some of the recommendations will take longer to implement and will require an ongoing effort to embed into the working practice of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
As you know, Christian women are more likely than men to be victims of discrimination and persecution. I am assured that the UK's human rights policy work considers the intersectionality of human rights, including the importance of addressing the specific vulnerabilities experienced by women and girls from religious minority communities. More broadly, the UK is recognised as a global leader in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) in all its forms, by pioneering approaches around the world that have shown that VAWG is preventable.
The UK engages with India on the full range of human rights matters, working with Union and State Governments, and with non-governmental organisations, to build capacity and share expertise to promote human rights for all. The British High Commission in New Delhi, and our Deputy High Commissions across India, also run projects promoting minority rights and regularly meet with religious representatives, as well as official figures such as the Chair of the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities.
The FCDO regularly engages with Open Doors UK and has taken note of the 2021 World Watch List report and its findings. I am glad that the report has praised the UK Government for the many positive advances it has made.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP.