Freedom of religion is essential to protect human rights


Foreign Secretary Liz Truss addresses the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in London.


The Foreign Secretary quoted St Paul as she condemned the persecution of religious minorities today.

Speaking at the International Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in London, Liz Truss urged oppressed communities in China, Nigeria, Afghanistan and elsewhere to “be on your guard, stand firm, be brave, be strong “, according to the terms of the first epistle. to the Corinthians.

She described Ukraine as the “frontline of freedom of belief” and said “religion is proving to be collateral damage from Putin’s aggression.”

“Vladimir Putin and his supporters think Russia is waging a holy war,” she said, “but in truth, nothing is sacred.”

In a video message to open the conference, the Prince of Wales described freedom of religion and belief as a principle “close to my heart”.

“Freedom of conscience, thought and belief is at the heart of any truly flourishing society,” he said during the opening plenary session. “It allows people to contribute to their communities without fear of exclusion, to exchange ideas without fear of prejudice, and to build relationships without fear of rejection.”

The Prime Minister also sent a video message, and Foreign Secretary Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the special envoy for religious freedom, told delegates that “too many people live in fear of persecution at because of what they carry in their hearts”.

Other speakers included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Trupti Patel of the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who warned of growing anti-Semitism in Europe and attempts to curb the practices traditional Jewish practices, such as circumcision and ritual slaughter. of animals.

Speaking on a subsequent panel with Tory MP Fiona Bruce, Liverpool’s counterpart Lord Alton stressed that freedom of religion or belief was ‘not just a good thing to have, but essential to our politics security and the protection of human rights. ”.

Nazila Ghanea, professor of human rights law at the University of Oxford, noted the continued persecution of the Baha’i faith in Iran and the Middle East, and the genocides perpetrated against religious minorities in the region. . “Once we call for genocide, it’s too late,” she said. Lord Alton agreed, saying states had a “duty to foresee” atrocities.

Describing his experience campaigning for minorities in Iraq, the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, said he was “surprised by the level of ignorance about the genocide against the Yazidis”, perpetrated by the Islamic State around 2014.

Sam Brownback, the former United States Goodwill Ambassador for Religious Freedom, cited these ongoing genocides as instances of religious persecution: “If you care about genocide, you care about religious freedom. He called for stronger leadership from Europe and the United States, while Tom Farr of the Religious Freedom Institute said Western societies had their own problems with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and stigma towards those who traditional beliefs on issues such as sexual ethics.

On Monday, the Foreign Office issued a statement following a review by Lord Ahmad of his response to the 2019 recommendations on protecting religious freedom, made by the Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen. This revealed that “a majority of recommendations are at an advanced stage of delivery or in the process of being delivered, while noting that there is still much to do”.

“We have sent a clear message that the international community will not turn a blind eye to serious and systematic human rights violations,” Ms Truss said in the statement.


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