Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, has been appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP as his Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Speaking on her appointment Fiona Bruce said
“I am honoured to be given this opportunity to serve as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. There is much to do, and my post will be placed at the service of some of the most vulnerable people across the world.
This appointment comes in the light of continuing large scale horrors taking place – such as those against Uighur Muslims in China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Yazidis in Iraq and at a time when, as the late and much respected former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks stated “the persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and elsewhere, is one of the crimes against humanity of our time.” These are some of the most deeply concerning issues of our generation, on which it will be a privilege to engage as Special Envoy, both nationally and internationally, with others similarly concerned.”
Fiona Bruce continued,
“Having travelled to countries such as Burma, Nigeria and Nepal and heard first hand accounts of atrocities and persecution being meted out there, I know how much those who are suffering from this appreciate advocacy on their behalf, even from afar.
The role of Special Envoy for FoRB is based upon Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a founder member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a signatory to that APPG’s first report of 2013 – which described Article 18 as an “orphaned right,” – I believe it is time to bring the orphan out of the orphanage.
As the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, I look forward to continuing to work alongside colleagues in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and pay tribute to their dedicated work , and that of others, on behalf of some of the most persecuted, vulnerable and afflicted on earth. I hope to build on this work to further raise the profile of FoRB as a human right. For as Boris Johnson MP the Prime Minister said recently in the House of Commons “We all know that wherever freedom of belief is under attack, other human rights are under attack as well.”
In 2010 Fiona became Member of Parliament for Congleton. Prior to 2010 Fiona practised as a solicitor, setting up her own business, the law firm Fiona Bruce & Co LLP, based in Cheshire.
Throughout her time in Parliament Fiona has focused on championing individual freedoms and human rights, both in this country and abroad, including the right of religious freedom or belief.
Fiona served on the International Development Select Committee for four years and chaired the Parliamentary sub-committee overseeing the Independent Commission on Aid Inspections. She currently sits on the Parliamentary Joint-Committee on Human Rights and is also Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, an appointment made by the then-Prime Minister.
Fiona is also a Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for North Korea and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “Fiona Bruce is a champion for freedoms here & abroad. I look forward to working with her as the UK’s Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to make sure everyone, everywhere is free to have & practice a faith, belief, or not, in accordance with their conscience.”
Lord Ahmad tweeted “As the UK Minister for human rights, freedom of religion is a key priority; I’m delighted by the appointment of Fiona Bruce MP as the PM’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She’s a powerful & passionate advocate for FoRB & I look forward to working closely with her.”
The Times view on the appointment of a new envoy for freedom of religion: Secret Prayers
The MP Fiona Bruce must look out for Christians across the globe
Tuesday December 22 2020, 12.01am, The Times
The Iraqi parliament has formally recognised Christmas as a national holiday. That move last week may have been chiefly a goodwill gesture to Pope Francis who plans to visit next March. But in a country where Christians have been fleeing in their thousands, it holds out the promise of less persecution and more tolerance. Many had feared that the Christian community would die out in Iraq; since the fall of Saddam Hussein four fifths of the 1.5 million Christians have left the country. Yet the outlook for Christians in many other parts of the world is much more bleak. In Sri Lanka, where an Easter bomb killed 250 worshippers last year, churchgoing still arouses a sense of anxiety. China has been closing churches and jailed a pastor for nine years after a secret trial.
Boris Johnson’s appointment of a personal envoy to look into religious freedom, not just of Christians but all creeds, is therefore a shrewd move. Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and former chairwoman of the Conservative Party’s human rights commission, has contributed to reports on Chinese persecution, including the treatment of Uighur Muslims. As religious rights envoy she will strengthen the government’s ambition to make human rights advocacy a pillar of foreign policy.
According to the non-governmental organi- sation Open Doors, attacks on churches rose globally from 1,847 in 2019 to 9,488 this year. Some 260 million Christians were either persecuted or seriously discriminated against over the past 12 months. Islamic jihadism has not died with the hardcore Isis group. It still drives Boko Haram, which claims to have been behind the recent kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys in northern Nigeria. But it is state persecution that is most worrying. It is almost impossible, barring the massive use of force, to deter terrorist groups from attacking Christians. They operate often in lawless space. Even autocratic governments can, however, be called to book. One function of British development aid should be to nudge governments towards creating safe space for Christians. Pakistan uses harsh anti-blasphemy laws against Christians. China uses facial recognition technology to identify worshippers. The authorities swat away criticism.
Britain, like many countries, has expressed outrage at the incarceration of the Uighurs and of Burma’s displacement of Rohingya Muslims. Apart from the moral depravity of setting up brainwashing camps and driving people from their homes, regimes need to recognise it as a matter of self-interest to treat all minorities fairly. The seeds of a new wave of jihadism could be sown in the Bangladeshi camps where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya families are quartered. Meanwhile Christian victims often go unnoticed. Yet they comprise by some estimates about 80 per cent of those persecuted for their faith. Converts from Islam are treated particularly harshly. In Iran it is forbidden to produce Christian literature. In Afghanistan it is illegal for a Muslim to leave Islam.
Ms Bruce must be more than a do-gooder in her new role. And she cannot just bang the drum for Christians. Embassies abroad need to be quicker off the mark if they hear reports of ethnic cleansing, of antisemitism, of churches being looted, of new discriminatory laws in the making. Religious friction will be one of the flashpoints of the 21st century and it needs to be better reported. As for the Iraqis, let’s hope they will be celebrating Christmas for many years to come.