House of Commons 2nd December 2014, written questions:
David Simpson MP (Upper Bann) (DUP): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps his Government is taking to promote religious respect and safety of Christians in the Central African Republic.
Foreign Office Minister James Duddridge MP (Rochford and Southend East) (Con): Addressing religious tensions in the Central African Republic (CAR) is an important part of supporting international efforts to protect the population from ongoing violence. The Inter-Religious platform in CAR is made up of Muslim and Christian leaders and has been at the forefront of peace-building and reconciliation efforts, engaging with communities that have been directly affected by sectarian violence in CAR. We welcome their efforts to promote dialogue, and have called for similar actions from CAR’s transitional government. As my hon friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Tobias Ellwood) said in Westminster Hall on 19 November, without justice, peace and reconciliation, there can be no future for the CAR.
Jeffrey M. Donaldson MP (Lagan Valley) (DUP): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts at the UN about the persecution of Christians in other countries; and if he will make a statement.
Foreign Office Minister David Lidington MP (Aylesbury) (Con): Freedom of religion or belief, including the right of Christians to profess their faith freely, is a key human rights priority for this Government. We work actively on it through the UN, encouraging all member states to implement in their own countries the commitments they have made in endorsing UN resolutions on this subject.
During the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, UN Member States adopted resolutions on freedom of religion or belief and combating intolerance.
My right hon and noble Friend, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Baroness Anelay of St. Johns has called upon all UN Member States to ensure that they translate these resolutions into practice and create a climate where no-one is persecuted or discriminated against on the grounds of their religion or belief.
The subject is also raised by means of country specific resolutions. One example is the UN Special Session on Iraq on 1 September when the UK requested a UN investigation into the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) abuses, which would include those directed at Christians, as well as Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities.
William McCrea MP (South Antrim) (DUP): To ask the Prime Minister, what discussions he has had with other world leaders over the increasing threat to freedom of religion for (a) Christians and (b) members of other faith groups.
Prime Minister David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr Lefroy) at Prime Minister’s Questions on 19 November 2014, Official Report, columns 271-272.
John Healey MP (Wentworth and Dearne) (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with the government of Pakistan on protection of Christians in that country.
Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood MP (Bournemouth East) (Con): We remain deeply concerned by the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. We continue to raise our human rights concerns with the Pakistan authorities at the highest level. I raised this issue with the Pakistani High Commissioner on 28 October, and with the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Mr Shanbaz Sharif, on 26 November.
House of Lords 2nd December 2014, written questions
Lord Patten (Con): To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether a minister attended the recent Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe conference on anti-semitism held in Berlin; and what was the composition of the United Kingdom delegation.
Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): The British delegation was led by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), who delivered a statement. The Minister was accompanied by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department; and the Head of the Cross-Government Hate Crime Programme, based in the Ministry of Justice. Officials from our Embassy in Berlin participated in parts of the conference.
The conference was also attended by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism, and Mr Mike Whine of the Hate Crime Independent Advisory Group.
Lord Turnberg (Lab): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Iraq about the destruction of churches, synagogues and holy sites in Iraq.
Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): The Government is deeply concerned about the destruction of churches and other holy sites in Iraq. This includes the destruction of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, which housed the Tomb of Jonah, by the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in July, and the destruction of the Green Church, which was thought to be the oldest church in the Middle East, by ISIL in September. We co-sponsored a resolution at the Human Rights Council in September, which highlighted and condemned the destruction of monuments, shrines, churches, mosques and other places of worship in Iraq and encouraged the Government of Iraq to protect these sites. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), condemned the destruction of religious sites in his statement of 30 July, which followed a meeting with representatives of the Iraqi Christian community. Officials from our Embassy in Baghdad and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in London have met a number of religious leaders to discuss the situation for religious groups in Iraq and have also met the Iraqi government to urge them to take appropriate steps to protect religious communities. We have also funded a series of grass roots meetings among religious leaders in Iraq to promote religious tolerance and freedom of religion or belief. We continue to encourage influential religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly and condemn sectarian violence.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Foreign Secretary, in his meeting with Hadi al-Bahra on 10 November, discussed the Syrian Opposition’s commitment to guarantee freedom of religion or belief for all religious minorities in Syria.
Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): These issues were not raised on this occasion. We have in the past pressed the National Coalition to be inclusive, respecting all sections of Syrian society including ethnic and religious minorities. The National Coalition has made strenuous efforts to broaden its membership base which includes Kurds, Christians and other religious and ethnic groups demonstrating that it has a democratic and pluralistic vision for Syria.