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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:45 am on 28th June 2022.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 10:45 am, 28th June 2022

I have to be really careful not to make comments that could put an individual or her family’s life at risk. I am afraid that that is all I can say on the matter right now.

I will comment on the very moving situation in Ukraine, as my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton did. It is heart-wrenching to see the destruction of churches, and it is absolutely right that we should condemn all violations of international law pertaining to the protection of places of worship and cultural heritage, especially in Ukraine. She is also absolutely right to commend the bravery of the people of Ukraine—a country that celebrates a huge diversity of religion and a multiplicity of belief. Putin is trying to use disinformation to distract the world from the horrors of his illegal war and the Kremlin’s false statements dishonouring those who fought to defeat Nazism in Europe. Nearly 2,000 years ago, St Paul wrote to the Ephesians and urged them to

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”

It is absolutely right that, 2,000 years later, we also stand firm for truth and call out Russian mistruths.

I close by repeating the Government’s firm belief that no one should suffer because of what they believe in. I really welcome the enthusiasm for the conference that we have heard today, and I hope that many Members will take part in it, because the Government are looking forward to continuing to work with all interested parties to advance freedom of religion or belief for all.