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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:41 am on 6 February 2024.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 10:41, 6 February 2024

May I thank everyone for their participation, their conviction, their contributions and their words of wisdom? I began by saying that we were here to speak up and be a voice for the voiceless, and I think Members of all parties have done so in this Chamber today. It has been a very positive debate. I hope that those in Nigeria—my brothers and sisters in the Lord, and those of other faiths—can take some encouragement from our conviction.

My hon. Friend Mr Campbell referred to the increasing numbers of attacks. The stats from the Library and from Open Doors, Aid to the Church in Need, Release International and other groups indicate that Nigeria is sixth in the world watchlist, which indicates the severity of the crimes.

David Linden said that our being here is a matter not just of principle, but of conviction. He is right, and I know that that is how he feels in his heart. He delivered that message well. He also referred to how Christians are attacked and how their houses, homes and churches have become a battleground. We have to address that.

If you do not mind my saying so, Mr Paisley, I think that the interventions from Fiona Bruce helped to cultivate the debate at each stage. I thank her for that, and I congratulate her on getting a Bill through Parliament to establish in law the position of the special envoy, under all Governments. That is a really big thing—well done to her. I thank her for everything that she has done to establish a special envoy permanently, and for all her interventions.

I was pleased to hear that Ms Brown would be speaking in this debate, because I knew that her contribution would be really on the ball. She referred to the 41 people killed in the Pentecostal mass some two years ago. Justice is needed; the hon. Member for Congleton reinforced that point, and I think the Minister tried to do so. Progress is needed on justice and accountability, and there should be no impunity for anyone. The hon. Member for West Ham also referred to the insecurity of the territory. She always makes a helpful contribution to these debates.

I know that this issue is not in the Minister’s portfolio, but he always encapsulates and appreciates the points of view put forward. He answered clearly on the issues that are important: preventing the persecution of Christians, protecting their freedom to worship and bringing perpetrators to justice. He referred to the peace ambassadors and how religious tolerance must flourish. That is what we wish to see: a Nigeria where everyone can follow their faith.

The Minister said, “Let us not be weary.” We are not wearying, because this is the right thing to do: we have a duty in this House and further afield to stand up for our brothers and sisters and for those of all faiths around the world. What a privilege it is to do so today in this Chamber with purpose and conviction, and to have a Minister who responds positively.