House of Commons 6 January 2015
Oral Answers to Topical Questions
Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): Across the world hundreds of thousands of Christians are being perniciously persecuted for their faith, beaten with nail-studded wooden clubs in Sri Lanka, abducted and killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, burned to death, forcibly married and on death row in Pakistan, and children are chopped in half or sold into slavery by IS in Iraq. We know of this in this House, and of much more. What are the Government doing about it? Is it not time for this country to appoint a global ambassador for religious freedom?
The Deputy Prime Minister: I am sure everybody is shocked not only by the news but by the litany of abuse, persecution and violence that is inflicted on Christians and all religious denominations that are persecuted minorities around the world. The Government, through bilateral engagement and working with partners in international organisations, funding projects, and providing religious literacy training for Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, do a lot to counter this. There is also, as the hon. Lady will know, an active advisory group on international freedom of religion or belief, which we strongly support. The question whether we should go further—of course, we should always keep an open mind on this—and create an envoy or an ambassador on religious freedom is not quite as straightforward as she implies. Other countries that have taken that step have found that those ambassadors and envoys are excluded from visiting certain countries. That is why the best course of action at present is for each of the Foreign Office Ministers to retain the responsibility for promoting freedom of religion and belief in the areas of the world which they cover.