Religious Freedoms

Thank you for contacting me about religious freedoms. My ministerial colleagues and I are committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and to promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities.

The importance of championing freedom of religion or belief is laid bare in the facts and figures regarding Christian persecution described in the Open Doors world watch list for 2024. Promoting and defending the right to FoRB is one of the UK's longstanding human rights priorities.

I would like to briefly outline how the Government strives to do so.

The Iranian regime’s human rights record is appalling, and FoRB is no exception: the recent upsurge in arbitrary arrests of Christians is particularly concerning. At the 78th United Nations General Assembly, the UK co-sponsored the Iran Human Rights Resolution, calling for Iran to eliminate- in law and in practice- all forms of discrimination on the basis of thought, conscience, religion or belief. I have been assured that the UK will continue to work with international partners via multilateral fora to promote the rights of Christians in Iran.

The environment for FoRB in China is sadly also restrictive, and alongside Iran, China is one of 32 human rights priority countries for the UK. As befits this priority status, the UK Government regularly raises human rights concerns, including on the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, directly with the Chinese authorities and in multilateral fora, including the OSCE, Council of Europe, International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance. 

In India, the British high commission in New Delhi and our deputy high commissions across the country regularly meet with religious representatives and official figures. The high commissioner has visited a number of diverse places of worship in India, meeting faith leaders there—including Christian communities. 

Moreover, the UK engages directly with government officials in Algeria and through the United Nations Human Rights Council universal periodic review process and follow-up recommendations. I especially welcomed the recent visits by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

More broadly, the Government has been working to embed FoRB considerations across the work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. History has shown that where FoRB is under threat, other human rights are also at risk: I therefore welcome that defending this right remains top priority for the UK. 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.