Middle East

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 18th November 2014.

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Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what his policy is on tackling the persecution of Christians in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Conflict and instability in the Middle East has made the plight of Christians and other religious minorities a significant concern. In many cases religious minorities are facing extremely difficult circumstances. Many communities are suffering, and indeed some countries risk seeing the disappearance of communities that have existed there peacefully for centuries.

We deplore all discrimination against religious minorities and constraints on their freedom to practise their faith. We regularly urge all governments in the Middle East to ensure the protection of all religious minorities. We encourage them to develop inclusive political systems that represent all of their citizens.

We work proactively in countries where we can to tackle these issues. For example, in Yemen the Middle East and North Africa Conflict Pool is delivering a grassroots community reconciliation initiative to ease tensions between different communities. In Syria a number of British Government funded projects have brought together religious leaders from all denominations (including Alawi, Christians, Kurds, Druze and Sunnis) to foster greater understanding between faiths and support reconciliation. In Tunisia, our Arab Partnership Initiative funds a project run by the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy which considers, amongst other things, the protection of religious minorities under the new constitution.

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