Christian Communities (Africa)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:49 am on 17th June 2003.

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Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office 10:49 am, 17th June 2003

Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that undertaking.

I realise that only four minutes remain and that many issues were raised in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud gave a graphic account of some of the things that have been happening in Eritrea. I will ensure that his speech is drawn to the attention of Eritrean diplomatic representatives, and to indicate the interest that the House is taking in what is happening in that country.

There is no doubt that the conflict in Côte d'lvoire has a significant religious and ethnic dimension. However, the root problems are political and economic. The Government—largely drawn from the south, where Christianity and animism predominate—have responded to economic and political pressures over the past decade with a series of measures that clearly discriminate against significant Muslim immigrant communities and against the largely Muslim northern part of the country. There have been attacks and human rights abuses on both sides. We share concerns raised about attacks on Christians.

Mr. Luff asked many questions about Sudan. We are concerned about violence there. Last year saw some progress towards peace—for example, the March agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement was recently extended, and we hope that it will be extended again. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman on some of the detailed questions that he raised.

Zimbabwe is very much a preoccupation for the Government. I am sure that all hon. Members will accept that it is important to underline that the political crisis in that country has little to do with religion and everything to do with the determination of the ruling elite to cling on to power. Zimbabwe is predominately a Christian country and persecution there is not based on religion. I join Andrew Selous in paying tribute to Archbishop Pius Ncube and the other religious leaders who have been outspoken against the bad things that are happening in that country.

I shall conclude on that note, given the limited time available, but as I promised, I will get back to hon. Members on some of the detailed questions that have been raised.