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This is an excellent and timely question, because tomorrow marks International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day, and the Church of England has been supporting a number of events, not least the one held in your house yesterday, Mr Speaker. There will also be a debate on this subject later today. The Church remains concerned about the increasing attacks on Christian communities around the world and continues to assist the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief.
I have raised with the Department for International Development on number of occasions the need to help Christians return to their ancient homeland. I can tell my right hon. Friend that the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, which is a collaboration between the Chaldean Church, the Syrian Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church, has so far restored 1,700 properties, enabling just over 4,700 Christian families to return home.
Next week marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What is the Church doing to promote and celebrate an event that led to major religious and social freedom in this nation?
There are already a number of events to mark the Reformation. Indeed, you can hardly fail to turn on the radio without hearing about the commemoration of this great occasion. However, in the spirit of the question, I want to share with the House something that a Minister of State said yesterday at the reception in the Speaker’s house: “It is incumbent on us all—all of us of faith and those of no faith—to speak up for the tolerance to hear each other.”