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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

With DFID offices in her constituency, the hon. Lady must realise that that is a question for DFID. Again, the civil servants in the Box will have heard what she said and, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton, I am sure that they will reply to her.

We have talked about other areas where the UK Government are particularly encouraging the Nigerian Government to do more to reduce conflict. The fostering social cohesion conference being hosted by Wilton Park this month will look at the complex drivers of conflict and aim to identify solutions that meet the needs of the communities. I hope that that goes some way to answering the questions asked by my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh.

Today’s debate has focused on the persecution of Christians, but, as other Members have mentioned, we should not overlook the suffering of other religious groups around the world. We are deeply concerned about the persecution of minorities in China, particularly the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and we have raised our concerns on numerous occasions, including at the UN General Assembly last year. We are also aware of reports of church closures in China and of individuals being detained because of their faith, including Pastor Wang Yi who was sentenced last year. To answer the specific question: yes, we have raised our concerns about his case directly with the Chinese authorities. Lord Tariq Ahmad does this on behalf of the Government, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

I know that communities of Iranian heritage with links here in the UK, including the Baha’i community, are terribly concerned about the treatment of minorities in Iran. During the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019, the UK brought together many supportive states and independent legal experts to highlight increasing concerns about Iran’s human rights record.