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Middle East

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 228525, tabled on 20 March 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent steps his Department has taken to protect Christians and other minority groups across the Middle East.

Answered on

25 March 2015

Conflict and instability in the region has made the plight of many minorities a significant concern and we have witnessed systematic and deliberate attacks against religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, including Christians. We regularly urge all governments in the region to ensure the protection of all religious minorities. We encourage them to develop inclusive political systems that represent all of their citizens. We also work proactively in the region to promote community cohesion and inclusive governance.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been responsible for many recent atrocities committed against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. We condemn these appalling acts and are committed to defeating ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained international strategy as part of the efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. The humanitarian aid provided by the UK will have helped many victims of ISIL’s atrocities, including the protection of vulnerable groups. And the UK co-sponsored the resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 September 2014, which highlights ISIL’s abhorrent actions and commits to a team of experts going to Iraq to investigate these atrocities.

In Syria a number of UK funded projects have brought together religious leaders from all denominations (including Alawi, Christians, Kurds, Druze and Sunnis) to foster greater understanding between faiths and support reconciliation. In Tunisia, we also funded a project run by the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy which considers, amongst other things, the protection of religious minorities under the new constitution. In Jordan, our work within refugee camps has helped reduce tensions between Syrian refugees and their host communities. In Lebanon, we are supporting education programmes including the addition of extra-curricular activities to help strengthen social cohesion. And in Iraq, we have funded a series of grassroots meetings between religious leaders to promote religious tolerance and freedom of religion or belief. We also continue to encourage religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly and condemn sectarian violence.