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Commonwealth: Religious Freedom

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL2843, tabled on 2 November 2017

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their strategy for protecting freedom of religion or belief across the Commonwealth.

Answered on

15 November 2017

Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) remains a high priority for Her Majesty's Government. We work on this issue around the world, including in countries that are members of the Commonwealth.

On International Religious Freedom Day (27 October), I wrote to all UK Ambassadors and High Commissioners encouraging them to make FoRB a priority in their human rights engagements and work in country. I also re-issued our revised "toolkit" which supports our diplomats working to protect and promote FoRB in locally appropriate ways. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also continues to provide training and seminars to increase religious literacy amongst staff.

Ministers and officials also speak out publicly in support of Freedom of Religion or Belief. For example, during my visit to Bangladesh in August 2017, I visited the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Dhaka and made a public call for religious tolerance.

The UK Government also continues to support a number of projects which promote Freedom of Religion or Belief through the FCO's Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy. Examples include a project to support a network of human rights defenders in South Asia.

In multilateral fora, the Government continues to work to sustain consensus on the adoption and implementation of two important resolutions: the European Union's Freedom of Religion or Belief resolution and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)'s resolution on Combating Religious Intolerance.

In October 2017, I convened the first in a series of roundtable meetings on FoRB. These meetings will bring together faith leaders and civil society to discuss current challenges to FoRB internationally, and how we can collaborate to strengthen our response to these.