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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

I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for that strong intervention. He has, again, absolutely put the point on the record, and the Government are under no illusions about the power of being the penholder in the United Nations Security Council—work in progress, my friend.

In November 2019, during Iran’s universal periodic review, we urged that our specific recommendations be accepted and reiterated concerns about the treatment of minority religious groups. The Government share those concerns, and we are committed to taking action with the international community to press Iran to improve its poor record on all human rights issues.

It would be remiss of us in any debate on this matter not to recognise that discrimination against and hostility towards faith communities also exists in western countries. We were sickened to see antisemitic graffiti sprayed on businesses and synagogues around north London in December, and in New York, during the Hanukkah celebrations, five victims were stabbed as they worshiped at the home of their rabbi. These incidents were all the more appalling because they took place just weeks before the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, when we were all reminded of what can happen when good people turn a blind eye to hate. My hon. and gallant Friend Bob Stewart has put on record the amazing story about his mother being present as an SOE officer at the liberation Belsen. That is a story that will stay with me for some time. That anniversary was also a time to recommit ourselves to enhancing understanding between communities of different faiths and beliefs. It is clear that there is much more to do, even in countries such as ours, with good human rights records.