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Middle East: Religious Freedom

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 19502, tabled on 9 December 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he is taking to promote international support for and defence of religious minority communities in the Middle East.

Answered on

14 December 2015

We remain deeply concerned about the plight of Christians and other religious minorities across the Middle East and North Africa. In March this year at a United Nations Security Council debate on the persecution of minorities in the Middle East, I called for bold leadership in the region to continue working for tolerance and reconciliation.

In September the UK participated in an international conference in Paris on the subject, and called on the international community to do more to assist vulnerable populations. On 19 November Baroness Anelay and I convened a workshop with non governmental organisations and experts in the field to examine what more Her Majesty’s Government might do to practically support Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and protect Freedom of Religion or Belief. Officials are now examining how to put these ideas into practice.

On a practical level, we assisted Kurdish and Yezidi fighters to liberate vulnerable minority groups in Sinjar in Iraq in November. The Royal Air Force provide vital air support for local, legitimate ground forces, focused on defeating ISIL and minimising civilian casualties.

We raise violations with individual countries, and work with them to ensure that discriminatory legislation and practices are tackled. We also ensure that the international consensus in the UN on tackling religious intolerance is maintained.

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