Freedom of Religion or Belief: International Conference — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:49 am on 28th June 2022.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 9:49 am, 28th June 2022

I congratulate Fiona Bruce on bringing forward the debate. She is a dear friend and colleague, and I am pleased to see her in such a prominent role for our Government and those with Christian and other beliefs across the world. It is very pleasurable for me to be involved in a debate alongside the hon. Lady. The debate will be a milestone for the UK, as we look forward to the international conference, to which the hon. Lady referred.

As chair of the APPG for international freedom of religion or belief, I declare a keen interest in this issue, and it will probably be no surprise that the matter is very close to my heart. Indeed, every Thursday in the main Chamber—if God spares me—I ask the Leader of the House a question that relates to religious belief. He always responds in a positive fashion, and it is encouraging to have a response like that from the Leader of the House. We stand up for those with Christian beliefs, those with other beliefs and those with no belief.

The hon. Lady referred to some of the visits that the APPG has made in the past few years, including to Pakistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. Last week, we went to Nigeria. Also present is Brendan O’Hara, who is another dear friend of mine, because we share many of the same interests in human rights and protecting religious beliefs. He, I and other Members recently visited Nigeria, which I will speak about as I progress through my speech. It is a pleasure to speak up.

The hon. Lady referred to Ukrainians. The APPG visited Poland a wee while ago to encourage the Polish Government and people to continue to help Ukrainian refugees, but also to reiterate our support for them. In many cases, Ukrainian refugees have been put out of their homes, victimised and brutalised, and their relatives have been murdered. Those things are real for us, and we speak up for the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Hindus, the Shi’as, the Sunnis, the Baha’is, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia—where they are persecuted—and on behalf of our stakeholders as well.