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Religious Freedom

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent steps he has taken to tackle religious persecution abroad.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

Her Majesty's Government promotes Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in many countries through diplomatic channels, public statements and support for projects to promote tolerance. A small selection of examples of steps Her Majesty's Government has taken recently to tackle and condemn religious persecution is provided below. It would place a disproportionate burden on resources to produce an exhaustive list of all recent actions taken by Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials abroad in this area.

During his recent visit to Bangladesh, Lord Ahmad visited an Ahmadiyya mosque where he spoke publicly of the importance of religious tolerance. In the wake of recent attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Foreign Secretary made a statement condemning religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities. We have issued a number of statements in response to Russia's Supreme Court ruling banning Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremists'. Officials from our Embassy in Moscow have attended court hearings and continue to monitor this case closely. In Eritrea, we have continued to call on the Government to release all prisoners detained without due process, including those detained for their religious beliefs. And in Sudan, we lobbied consistently on behalf of four imprisoned Christian pastors (now released – partly, we judge, as a result of our efforts).

At the United Nations Human Rights Council we continue to work to sustain consensus on the adoption and implementation of the European Union sponsored Resolution on 'Freedom of Religion or Belief' and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation sponsored Resolution on 'Combating Religious Intolerance'. We also continue to support a number of projects to promote tolerance through the FCO's Magna Carta Fund, including a project to promote legal and social protection of FoRB in secondary school curricula across the Middle East and North Africa.

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