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Religious Freedom

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL5364, tabled on 5 February 2018

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to advance freedom of religion and belief in (1) Saudi Arabia, (2) Pakistan, (3) Myanmar, and (4) the Central African Republic.

Answered on

19 February 2018

The Government strongly supports the right to freedom of religion or belief and our views are well known.

Saudi Arabia:
We regularly raise our concerns with the Government of Saudi Arabia using a range of Ministerial and diplomatic channels of communication, including the British Embassy and through the European Union in Riyadh. We will continue to look for opportunities to work with Saudi Arabia in encouraging greater freedom of religion or belief. We received positive messages from the Saudi authorities on the tolerance of religious minorities and freedom of religion or belief.

During his visit to Pakistan in November 2017, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific raised the treatment of religious minorities, including discrimination and violence against the Ahmadiyya Muslim and Christian communities, with Pakistan's Ministry of Human Rights. The Foreign Secretary raised religious tolerance and the importance of safeguarding the rights of all Pakistan's citizens during his visit to Pakistan in November 2016. The UK has supported projects in Pakistan to promote greater tolerance and religious freedom. Pakistan remains a priority for UK development assistance, with programmes designed to improve human rights that include promoting tolerance of religious minorities.

I raised concerns about the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Burma at the Human Rights Council in September 2017. The treatment of the Rogingya is of particular concern, the Foreign Secretary raised this with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma on 11 February. British Embassy Rangoon has been supporting local projects addressing the drivers of prejudice and inter-communal violence. In 2017 we delivered a two-day inter-faith dialogue and a workshop for civil servants, parliamentarians and non-government organisations.

Central African Republic:
We are working with the international community, including through the UN peacekeeping Mission (MINSUCA), to support the Central African Republic government's efforts to end the violence and bring about reconciliation and stability. In January, with our UN Security Council partners, the UK also agreed a mandate to sanction individuals who incite violence on an ethnic or religious basis (UN Resolution 2399). Since 2013, the UK has provided £63 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by the violence.