To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on the persecution of Christians overseas.
28 January 2021
The UK remains deeply concerned about the severity and scale of violations and abuses of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in many parts of the world. The UK is committed to defending FoRB for all, and promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. We continue to assess the impact of Covid-19 on human rights globally, including members of minority religious and belief communities. We are concerned by the secondary effects of the pandemic, including incidents of hate speech, reports that some Christian communities have been denied access to aid, and the rise in conspiracy theories that certain faiths or beliefs are to blame for the pandemic. The UK will continue to refute these divisive and harmful claims. On 16 November 2020, the Minister of State for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, virtually attended the Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief in Warsaw, where he reaffirmed the UK's commitment to promoting FoRB, particularly during the pandemic.
In 2019, the Bishop of Truro released a report commissioned by the then FCO looking into FCO support for persecuted Christians, with recommendations to improve the lives of people persecuted for their religion, faith or belief. Of the 22 recommendations, we have fully delivered 10, made good progress on a further 8, and we are confident that all 22 will be delivered by the time of the independent review in 2022. On 20 December 2020, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to FoRB by appointing Fiona Bruce MP as his Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. Mrs Bruce will work with ministers, officials and others to deliver the Government's goal of seeing everyone, everywhere able to have and practise a faith or belief, or not to do so, in accordance with their conscience.