Freedom of Religion - Open Doors Campaign

This is an important concern and in recent years there has been a rising tide of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief in certain parts of the world. Christians, Baha'is, Shias, Sunnis and Alawites, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, and many others have fallen victim to a new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents. That is why, in the last Parliament, the Government put a new emphasis on its activities to promote freedom of religion or belief across 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. 

I can assure you that the Government will continue to defend the fundamental right of religious freedom, alongside its commitment to promote and defend human rights more generally.

Multilateral organisations are a vital avenue for the pursuit of progress on what is an international issue. In the last Parliament, the Government worked with the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement Resolution 16/18, laying the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion throughout the world. Foreign Office Ministers brought together countries across the world to discuss implementation in 2013 and continued to monitor progress through a number of follow-up meetings.

In the last Parliament, the Government also prioritised freedom of religion through engagement with governments across the world. The Conservative-led Government made sure that every minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was an ambassador for religious freedom, raising and promoting these issues in the countries for which they have responsibility will continue to do so going forward. For example, in China, the Government regularly raises the subject of harassment and legal restrictions faced by the Chinese Christian community at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, publishing quarterly updates on the progress made.

I believe that more work that needs to be done. The Government will build on its work in the previous Parliament to make clear the facts of history and correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of 'the west'. This approach will be at its most effective if all people, independent of religion, work together to support these values.