Debates between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Open Doors 2019 World Watch List

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 23rd January 2019

(5 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking in response to Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians face the greatest persecution.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are deeply concerned about the severity of violations of the freedom of religion or belief in many parts of the world. We regularly raise our concerns at ministerial and senior levels. To ensure that the United Kingdom is supporting Christians in the best possible way, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has commissioned an independent global review into additional practical steps the Government can take to support persecuted Christians. The aim is for this review to make an initial report by Easter.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank the Minister for his reply and I very much welcome what the Government are doing, particularly through the Foreign Secretary. The right of people to freedom of religion or belief is absolutely fundamental, whether they are Muslim, Hindu or atheist, but does the Minister not agree that there is a particular crisis affecting Christians at the moment, with the number of countries in which Christians are suffering persecution at a very high level, having doubled in the past year? Does he not agree that it is particularly dismaying that India should now appear at number 10 on this list, just below Iran and above Syria? India has a very good constitution and sound laws, but because of the rise of nationalism, these laws are simply not being enforced. Will he convey to the Indian Government our deep dismay that India should appear on this list at all, let alone at number 10?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, I agree with the noble and right reverend Lord on the issue of persecuted Christians. Around the world today 245 million Christians in 50 countries have been identified as suffering persecution of varying levels. As the noble and right reverend Lord said, that has doubled over the last four or five years. Clearly, action is needed. This does not preclude the fact that we will continue our efforts, and it is right that we stand up for all persecuted communities around the world, including those of no faith. He mentioned India specifically. India is the largest democracy and has an inherent, vibrant and strong rule of law. I assure noble Lords that we will continue to make representations to all countries, including India, to ensure that equality and justice for all citizens in India are upheld according to its own constitution.