Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 1st July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 6:36 pm, 1st July 2019

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that, as he makes the point I was coming to.

I would like to talk briefly about one value we share in this place, a fundamentally British value: religious tolerance. It must become a major goal intertwined with our aid programme. According to DFID’s figures in 2013, 21 out of 35 armed conflicts around the world had a “religious element”. Let us be clear that religion has a hugely positive effect in the world. It guards against extremism, runs schools and hospitals, fights against authoritarianism and gives people a spiritual life. But when faith becomes a tool for division and sectarianism, it becomes a destructive force and, like any other form of division, such as nationalism, racism or tribalism, is simply an expression of human bigotry which lays blame for our problems in the hands of those who are different from ourselves. This is why religious tolerance must be our watchword in this area. Ensuring freedom of religion and belief is our duty as a country under article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights. Therefore, I ask the Minister to take the opportunity to update us on the status of UK aid in relation to guarantees that we should be seeking on this fundamental human right of freedom of religion or belief.

In conclusion, sharing our values around the world, whether that be democracy, the role of women, religious tolerance or LGBT rights, we should be proud to use our aid programme to promote those values in every corner of the globe. That means having tough but honest conversations, but by doing this we will help to free the world from ignorance and bigotry, as well as poverty.