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Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 22877, tabled on 18 January 2016

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the conclusions of the report from Open Doors, Freedom of Religion and the Persecution of Christians; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

27 January 2016

The Government is firmly committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief around the world, and to being a strong voice internationally in defence of this fundamental right. We value our close working relationship with organisations such as Open Doors and their insights from practical work around the world. We welcomed their recent report, which Baroness Anelay of St Johns, FCO Minister for Human Rights, was pleased to discuss with Open Doors on 13 January.

Our new strategic approach to human rights refocuses our work around three themes: democratic values and the rule of law; strengthening the rules-based international system; and human rights for a stable world. Our work on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is integral to all three of these themes.

We have an active programme of religious literacy training amongst staff from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and across Whitehall, including through our new Diplomatic Academy.

Multilaterally, we are working through the UN General Assembly to establish an internationally agreed set of principles for promoting tolerance through education. We also carry out project work in a range of countries, working with non-governmental organisations on issues such as promoting better understanding between faiths, bridging sectarian divides, promoting dialogue between faith groups and government and offering technical advice on amending discriminatory laws. Earlier in January, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced an uplift to £10.6 million for the 2016/17 programme, named the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy. We are encouraging strong bids for projects focused on promoting freedom of religion or belief, and promoting FoRB as one way of tackling the root causes of extremism.