Questions: Bahai’s in Iran, blasphemy laws in Indonesia

The Bishop of Coventry asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the ability of members of the Baha’i community in Iran to bury their dead in accordance with the rituals of their faith.

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): The UK remains concerned over restrictions on freedom of religion in Iran. We were deeply concerned to learn of the destruction of a Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz, where approximately 950 Baha’is are buried. We continue to call for Iran to abide by its international commitments to ensure all Iranians are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution. This includes protection of religious sites. The UK last raised our concerns about freedom of religion in Iran during our inputs in Iran’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council on 31 October.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of Amnesty International’s report Prosecuting Beliefs: Indonesia’s blasphemy laws.

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): We welcome Amnesty International’s report which identifies blasphemy prosecutions as a concern in Indonesia. It is positive that Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has responded constructively to the report, stating it will look at the law again to see how it can be improved and made more relevant to modern day conditions.

The newly inaugurated Indonesian government has taken some positive steps on religious freedoms. The Minister of Religious Affairs has announced plans to develop legislation to strengthen protection to adherents of all religious beliefs. The Minister for Home Affairs is investigating how district and regional governments can better protect rights of minorities, and met representatives of a number of different minority belief groups earlier this month.