Thank you for contacting me about the persecution of Christians around the world.
I am proud that the United Kingdom is an open and respectful society which values people’s freedom to be themselves, and practise their religion or belief, without fear, prejudice or persecution. But, we must never be complacent, be it at home or abroad, in rooting out intolerance and standing up and defending the right of freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) for all.
It is completely abhorrent that millions of Christians worldwide are persecuted for seeking to practise their beliefs openly, in peace and safety. Here in the UK our freedoms are all too often taken for granted. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has shown a longstanding commitment to address the persecution of religious minorities around the world.
The UK’s multiple overseas programmes are an important part of this work to promote and protect religious freedoms. This includes raising concerns over provisions that are being used to limit the freedom to adopt, change or practise a religion around the world. I was encouraged to learn that almost £1 million of funding has been allocated to pursue the Government’s freedom of religion and belief policy objectives through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy.
In the summer, in recognition of the importance of FoRB, the Prime Minister appointed a Special Envoy on FoRB, Lord Ahmad, to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices overseas network and international partners to achieve a step-change in diplomatic efforts to defend the right to FoRB and proactively work for change in selected countries. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has recently reissued its toolkit on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) to all of our overseas embassies and missions across the world and encouraged them to promote and defend this important human right. Additional funding of £12 million has also been made available through UK Aid Connect, to work with faith groups, NGOs and academics to promote religious diversity and help countries worldwide embed FoRB policies alongside poverty reduction and development.
The UK acts both multilaterally, through institutions such as the UN, striving to build and maintain consensus, and bilaterally, through the UK’s diplomatic network to address the persecution of religious minorities.
Unfortunately, due to other Parliamentary commitments I was unable to attend the Christian Solidarity Worldwide event on Tuesday 23 October, but I am encouraged that this was an opportunity to raise the profile of this important issue amongst Members of Parliament. In general, I am afraid that my commitments as a Government Whip limit my opportunities to attend events in Parliament; consequently, I am very unlikely to be able to attend the event on 28 November.
I hope you are reassured you that the UK will now, and in the future maintain a firm commitment to promoting and defending FoRB for individuals around the world.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP