Thank you for contacting me about the persecution of Christians worldwide.
My ministerial colleagues and I are committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and to 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.
Nobody should live in fear because of their identity or beliefs, including those who have no religious convictions or beliefs. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) monitors FoRB globally, and regularly raises concerns with national governments who are not meeting their obligations, publicly and in private, including at a ministerial level.
The FCDO also works via multilateral fora, such as the UN, G7, OSCE, Council of Europe, and the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance to promote and protect FoRB for all. As you note, the UK will host an international ministerial conference on FoRB in July to energise collective efforts on this agenda. I will be taking careful note of the outcomes of the conference.
In December 2020, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to FoRB by appointing Fiona Bruce MP as his Special Envoy for FoRB. She works with ministers, officials, and others to deliver the Government's goal of seeing everyone, everywhere able to have and practise a faith, belief, or no religious belief, in accordance with their conscience. I commend Fiona's determined action on this issue as Envoy. In January 2022, David Burrowes was appointed as Fiona's deputy.
Most prominently, Fiona is working with the Minister for Human Rights, Lord Ahmad, to drive forward the implementation of the recommendations from the Bishop of Truro's report on FCO support for persecuted Christians in a way that improves the lives of those persecuted for their faith, or belief, or for not holding a religion. I understand that the FCDO have achieved 13 of the recommendations, and that a further six are close to being achieved with good progress made on the remaining three.
Women: As was discussed in the Westminster Hall debate on this issue in March, women are more likely than men to be victims of religious discrimination and persecution. The Foreign Secretary has publicly committed to putting women and girls at the heart of foreign and development policy, and I am assured that the UK's 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, and will host a global conference in November 2022 to unite the world in action on this issue.
World Watch List Report 2022: The FCDO regularly engages with Open Doors UK and I have no doubt that ministers will pay heed to the recommendations made in the 2022 World Watch List Report. I am glad that the report has praised the UK Government for the many positive advances it has made.
I hope this has provided some reassurance to you on this important matter.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP