International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day — [Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:23 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 2:23 pm, 25th October 2018

I thank the Minister for his intervention. He is absolutely right that such debates shine a light and give hope to people who may not be able to express their faith freely. They show that in parts of the world where people can do that, we care, we focus and we will speak up for their right to express their faith. As I said about the case in North Korea, some of the stories, and the fact that people do such things under those conditions, are an inspiration to any of who profess to have faith—in my case, the Christian faith.

It is welcome that we continue to stand up and speak and that we continue to comment and make noise about this issue. People can look at what we are saying and see our thoughts, our values and how we freely and happily associate as people with different religious beliefs. I bet that there are different views and different denominations among hon. Members in this Chamber, which makes us all stronger and more secure in our faith. It is not a threat to someone’s faith to be with someone of another faith. Those who are strongest in their faith have nothing to fear about anyone else’s belief. It is those who are weak in their faith who define themselves by what they are against, not what they are for.

Following the Minister’s welcome intervention, it would be interesting to hear more from him about what concrete steps the UK can take, diplomatically and economically, perhaps using our development budgets, to promote the freedom of religion or belief and to support countries that are moving away from oppressive regimes or where communities are trying to re-establish themselves, particularly those that may have been driven out by genocidal behaviour. Part of that process is about supporting them to go back to their areas.

What difference does the Minister think the UK will be able to make as a P5 nation in the next couple of years? As he mentioned previously in a statement in the House, it is likely that France, Britain and Germany will be on the Security Council, which are three countries that work closely together on many issues, including securing basic human freedoms.

It is welcome to have this debate again. It is always welcome to be able to stand up and shine a light, to proclaim our faith and to make it clear that we feel that it is important that we can approach God without feeling that that needs to take away anyone else’s right to have a faith or not. By standing up and having this debate again, we have given hope and inspiration. If it gives hope to one more person in a dark dank hole in a North Korean labour camp that one day things will change, because people are standing up and speaking about their condition, it is worth every minute we spend here.