Persecution of Christians Overseas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:25 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 3:25 pm, 18th July 2019

I agree—we must call out criticism of those in this place and elsewhere who simply want the freedom to express their biblically-based beliefs. My hon. Friend is right. Along with many others in this place, I have been the subject of some really unpleasant attacks during the past week, particularly on social media, simply for speaking out in this place and voting on biblically-based beliefs on abortion and marriage.

I turn to the issue of genocide. I welcome the recommendation in the report that the Government should introduce

“mechanisms…to facilitate an immediate response to atrocity crimes, including genocide through activities such as setting up early warning mechanisms to identify countries at risk of atrocities, diplomacy to help de-escalate tensions and resolve disputes”.

I have spoken about this issue many times in this Chamber, raised questions about it and put forward the Genocide Determination (No. 2) Bill, which would help to deal with it. I commend the Bishop of Truro for highlighting the issue.

It is important to point out that the FCO does not have appropriate mechanisms to consider mass atrocities and determine whether they amount to genocide. When asked about genocide, the Government’s usual response is that such a determination is not for politicians to make, but for the international judicial systems. That needs to be reviewed. The FCO needs to review its long-standing policy of outsourcing the determination of genocide to the international judicial systems, which often do not exist. We need to introduce an FCO-based team focused on genocide and religious persecution to consider situations, identify red flags and inform the FCO response. We also need to ensure that the FCO works closely with other Departments, such as the Home Office and the Department for International Development, to ensure that we are applying the principles in this report internationally and at home.

Finally, I welcome the recommendation about improved religious literacy training. The FCO has a FoRB toolkit, but as the Bishop of Truro has said, barely anyone applies it in their work or takes notice of it. We need to improve that.