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Commonwealth: Religious Freedom

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL4917, tabled on 11 January 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 9 December 2015 (HL4410), whether any other Commonwealth countries prohibit the public observance of any religion other than Islam; and what discussions they have held with the Commonwealth authorities over freedom of religion.

Answered on

22 January 2016

Further to my previous answer there are no other Commonwealth countries where the public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. We continue to believe that all Commonwealth members should abide by the Commonwealth Charter which emphasises the need to promote tolerance, respect, understanding, moderation and religious freedom as critical steps in promoting peace and prosperity.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in November 2015, Heads reaffirmed the importance of human rights. They recognised that freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief are cornerstones of democratic societies, and important for the enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to development, and are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. They also emphasised the need to protect individuals from all forms of violence and discrimination.

We will continue to raise individual cases and highlight practices and laws that discriminate against people on the basis of their religion or belief with those countries concerned. We will also continue to encourage Commonwealth partners to embrace the values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including the freedom of religion or belief. We also look forward to discussing freedom of religion and other issues with the new Commonwealth Secretary General when she takes up office in April.