Freedom of Religion and Belief in Nigeria — [Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:23 am on 6 February 2024.

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Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 10:23, 6 February 2024

It is a great pleasure to be here this morning, Mr Paisley, and I am grateful to Jim Shannon for securing this debate. I know colleagues will join me in commending him for his long-standing commitment to freedom of religion or belief, especially with regard to Nigeria. His sincerity and passion are of note and are much appreciated.

I am here on behalf of the Minister for Africa, my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, who takes a great interest in this issue in the context of the continent, but is engaged in duties elsewhere. It is my great pleasure to be here and I aim to cover off all the points raised. I am grateful for the contributions; it has been a sincere and passionate debate. I am particularly pleased that the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce, is also here contributing.

We are united in horror at the scale and ferocity of attacks against religious groups in Nigeria, which were shockingly described by the hon. Member for Strangford. Of course, particularly in our minds is the massacre of Christians at St Francis Xavier Church, and we continue to press the Nigerian Government for justice to be done in that case.

The hon. Member for Strangford referred to Open Doors, and its report paints a very harrowing picture. More than 4,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria last year alone. It is our firm conviction that every Nigerian should be able to practise their faith and it is the constitutional obligation of the Nigerian Government to ensure that all Nigerians should be able to practise their faith or belief in safety, free from fear and persecution. I commend the dedication shown by Members in this Chamber and across the House, and I will use this opportunity to lay out some of the actions that the Government are taking.