Religious Freedom: Lord Alton’s question

Q Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool on: 23 October 2017 –¬†Foreign and Commonwealth Office Religious Freedom HL2309

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to mark International Freedom of Religion or Belief day on 27 October; whether they will publish details of those countries responsible for violations of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and whether they intend to set out what progress has been made to ensure that upholding freedom of religion or belief is given a higher priority as a foreign affairs and development policy objective.

A Answered by: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Answered on: 06 November 2017

I issued a statement and video on social media marking International Religious Freedom Day (IRFD). In addition, instructions were sent asking all Embassies and High Commissions overseas to consider how they might mark the day in locally appropriate ways. To coincide with IRFD I have writen to Ambassadors to underline the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and to re-issue our revised FoRB “toolkit” which supports our posts’ work in this area. I was also pleased to speak at the launch on 25 October of a new report ‘Article 18: From Rhetoric to Reality’ by the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The FCO does not keep a comprehensive and exhaustive record of those states we consider to be in breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and therefore cannot publish the details requested.

There are many examples to illustrate the fact that the FCO continues to afford a high priority to FoRB. We promote FoRB in many countries, including a number of our Human Rights Priority Countries where FoRB is under pressure. We do this through diplomatic channels, public statements and support for projects which promote tolerance. For example, during my recent visit to Bangladesh, I visited an Ahmadiyya mosque for a multi-faith event at which I spoke publicly of the importance of religious tolerance. I also met faith leaders during recent visits to India and Ghana. The UK Government frequently raises concerns with states where we see people face persecution or discrimination because of religion or belief.

We also support the work of United Nations Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur for FoRB, to hold countries to account.

We are currently working to develop a new FoRB strategy which will include encouraging a sharper focus on FoRB issues by our posts overseas. On 23 October, I hosted a roundtable to discuss with faith leaders and civil society how we might work together to promote FoRB. Our commemoration of International Human Rights Day in December, will focus on the role of faith leaders in promoting and protecting human rights, including FoRB.