The persecution of Christians, and indeed any religious group, is entirely unacceptable. All people should be able to practice and profess their religious faith free from persecution, as outlined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Religious organisations play an important and crucial role in highlighting terrible violations of this rights all around the world. That is why I welcomed the launch of the latest World Watch List report by Open Doors.
I was concerned to learn from Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List report that the level of overall persecution of Christians had risen for the fifth year in a row. It was also shocking to read that over 3,000 Christians were killed for their faith in the 2018 reporting period – more than twice as many as in the previous reporting period.
I believe the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and belief, should be at the heart of UK foreign policy. We must do everything in our power to ensure that people of faith across the world have the freedom to pursue their beliefs without fear of harassment or victimisation. That is why the manifesto I stood on at the General Election in June 2017 pledged to appoint a global ambassador for religious freedom to fight discrimination and promote equality globally.
In July 2018, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a new Special Envoy for Religious Freedom. I hope the Government will ensure that there is effective co-ordination across departments to ensure this role is effective. I also believe the UK should use all diplomatic means available, including bilateral relations and multilateral forums such as the UN, to ensure that international law is adhered to where there are humanitarian issues and breaches of human rights.