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Persecution of Christians

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 4:10 pm, 6th February 2020

This has been a lively and at times impassioned debate, and it has been a testament to the strength of feeling throughout the House and the country that no one should suffer discrimination, violence or persecution because of their faith or belief, or for not following a faith. I shall try to respond to all the points raised and highlight the UK’s action on this issue.

First, we are deeply concerned about the way in which blasphemy laws are widely abused. The Government regularly apply diplomatic pressure to countries that abuse their blasphemy laws. That work is often done behind the scenes because of the sensitivity of the issue.

I know that Members care deeply about the treatment of religious minorities, including Christians, in Pakistan. I pay particular tribute, as so many others have done today, to Jim Shannon, who works particularly hard to raise awareness of this issue. Let me answer the questions about Pakistan. The Government share the concerns expressed today and regularly urge the Government of Pakistan to ensure that all their citizens enjoy the full range of human rights, as laid down in Pakistan’s constitution and enshrined in international law. The Government strongly condemn forced marriage and forced conversions.

In India, our missions often bring together members of minority communities, including Christian groups, to better understand the religious and cultural divides, and to help to bridge them, including through the projects that we fund.

Colleagues understandably expressed particular concern about the safety and security of minority communities in the middle east in the light of recent events. Let me state clearly and on the record that the Government will continue to promote and protect human rights in the region. We will not shy away from urging Governments to protect the rights of all their citizens, in accordance with international human rights law.