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Religious Freedom

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 8136, tabled on 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts throughout the world on the protection of religious freedoms in their countries; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

30 January 2020

Defending and promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is a longstanding human rights priority for the British Government. Through our diplomatic network, we lobby governments for changes in laws and practices that discriminate against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief. Over recent months, ministers and diplomats have raised FoRB concerns in many countries both bilaterally and through multilateral institutions such as the UN, EU and OSCE. Our Minister of State responsible for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, has held Freedom of Religion or Belief roundtables, including in Lebanon. He met the Polish Foreign Minister on 19 January at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ministerial meeting to reaffirm their commitments to defend FoRB for all. The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for FoRB has visited Bahrain and the Holy See and has held discussions with the Ambassadors of a number of countries in London and also with a number of other FoRB Special Envoys to see how they can work more closely together to advance FoRB. Ministers have also pressed for the rights of those unfairly detained, including calling for the immediate release of all Baha’is in Iran and Yemen imprisoned for their beliefs.

We have encouraged our diplomatic missions to consider what they can do to engage their host governments where human rights violations and abuses relating to freedom of religion or belief are of concern. We will also continue to work with faith leaders and civil society organisations to tackle discrimination and persecution and to promote the value and benefit - to individuals, communities and wider society - of Freedom of Religion or Belief and mutual respect.

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