Freedom of Religion and Belief

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 28th April 2022.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to promote the freedom of religion and belief globally.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

In addition to the involvement that the Church will have with the international ministerial conference on freedom of religion and belief that my hon. Friend is helping to organise in July, we will equip bishops from across the world to respond as effectively as possible to violations of freedom of religion at the Lambeth conference later that month. The Church also continues to work with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on the implementation of the Truro review.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

Does my hon. Friend agree that people may not be aware that freedom of religion or belief is one of the fundamental rights for which people in Ukraine are fighting? In areas of Ukraine such as Luhansk, where pro-Russian separatists have taken areas in the past few years, churches are now required to register to meet. All the Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal and other Protestant churches have been refused registration, so they meet in a climate of fear.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

My hon. Friend has done the House a great service in putting the matter on the record, because I do not think that it was widely known that in the areas that Russia had previously occupied in Ukraine, freedom of religion had been restricted in such a serious way. I am sure that she agrees with the Archbishop of York, who wrote in The Yorkshire Post on Good Friday that we

“must all rise up to make sure Putin does not win”,

so that what she is talking about does not continue.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Has discussion been raised with the global bishops to ascertain how the thriving Anglican Church in Africa can further be instrumental in promoting the treasured freedom of religious belief?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to raise the issue. Unfortunately, there are serious abuses of freedom of religion and belief across large parts of Africa. The subject will be a major issue for discussion at the Lambeth conference, and we are working with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to make improvements in the area.