Today the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG FoRB) and Fiona Bruce MP, the UK Prime Miniaster’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, hosted a reception marking Red Wednesday, a Catholic initiative that offers chance to raise awareness of the persecution Christians and those of other religions or beliefs face around the world. The event was attended by members of both Houses as well as leaders in the FoRB human rights sector in the UK.
At the event, Fiona Bruce MP called for “a time for action, to reassert our commitment to advocate to end the persecution for all”. She stated the importance that the Government places on this issue and highlighted the important contribution these groups make to the countries they live in around the world, that “communities are stronger when they include everyone”.
Fiona Bruce also launched the #EndThePersecution campaign – an initiative to raise awareness of this human right ahead of the 2022 International Ministerial. The 2022 Ministerial is a forum for world leaders, ministers and policymakers of governments around the world, that will be hosted by the UK in July 2022. Leading up to the Ministerial next year, organisations in the FoRB sector will run 100 FoRB focussed events across the UK as part of FoRB Fringe. These fringe events and the Ministerial Conference will have a special focus on protecting at-risk religious or belief communities.
The Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, spoke about the role her department has taken to protect at-risk religious or belief communities and highlighted recent efforts in Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan. She talked about the UK’s presidency of the G7 and how the Government has used this role to “make freedom of religion or belief a priority”. She also highlighted the steps the FCDO has taken since the Bishop of Truro’s Review in 2019 which called for wide-reaching measures across the FCDO to safeguard at-risk religious or belief communities around the world. Finally, Liz Truss called for 2022 to be a “year of action” with the upcoming Ministerial and other opportunities.
Jim Shannon MP, Chair of the APPG FoRB, spoke about the role of parliamentarians to be “the voice for those who have no voices” and encouraged MPs “to work to secure the freedoms they enjoy for others abroad”. Finally, Jim Shannon shared his hopes for the 2022 Ministerial, hoping that it would “not only shine a light on what the UK is doing to promote FoRB internationally but the importance of working with other states to make FoRB a reality for all”.
Alok Sharma MP also shared his vision for the upcoming ministerial stating that “great opportunity to bring ministers around the world to talk about an issue which is vitally important” and the importance of holding perpetrators to account for FoRB violations.
Other speakers included:
· Dr Homira Rezai, chair of Hazara Committee in the UK and a leader of the #StopHazaraGenocide campaign, highlighted the persecution of Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While all minorities within Afghanistan are at risk, the Hazara Committee is at “extreme risk of Genocide”. Dr Rezai called for the UK Government to ensure humanitarian aid swiftly reaches Hazara villages, which often become isolated over winter. There was also a warning of increasing violence and a request for the British Government to recognise the Hazara’s as a group of special concern.
· Padideh Sabeti, who shared her experience of growing up in the Baha’i faith in Iran and the discrimination her family after the 1979 revolution. She highlighted that Baha’i experience in Iran is “oppression from cradle to grave”.
· Neha Parvaiz, a survivor of abduction, forced conversion and sexual violence in Pakistan, shared her story by pre-recorded video for the first time. Her stories showed the isolation and fear victims face. Despite this happening three years ago Neha Parvaiz is still trying to legally dissolve the marriage and has spent years living in hiding, unable to leave her home for fear of a repeat abduction.
This week also marks the 40th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. A three-hour debate will be held in the House of Commons on Thursday 25th November, highlighting the prevalence of human rights abuses against religious or belief communities around the world.
About: The All-Party Parliamentary Group is a cross-party group of 144 parliamentarians who believe that international freedom of religion or belief is a crucial human right who seek to raise its profile in Government, in Parliament, in the media and among the general public. For more information, please visit appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about End The Persecution campaign, please visit www.endthepersecution.co.uk