Defending freedom of religion or belief worldwide
FCO Minister Baroness Warsi chairs a meeting of the FCO Advisory Group on freedom of religion or belief in London, 25 March 2014.
Earlier this week, the Senior Minister of State and Minister for Faith, Baroness Warsi, held the first meeting of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Advisory Group on freedom of religion and belief. The group usefully supplements the FCO’s regular dialogues with religious leaders by bringing together lay experts from a wide spectrum of faiths (and none, as freedom not to believe must also be protected) that will advise FCO Ministers and staff on how to build on the active approach we are already taking to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief worldwide.
One of the members of the group is the Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Mervyn Thomas, and this week I had the opportunity to meet the CSW team leader for East Asia, Benedict Rogers, to talk about their work in the region, in particular in the light of Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea later this year. Rogers highlighted the report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea, and the particular concern of the report’s author, Justice Michael Kirby, of persecution of people in North Korea for their religious beliefs.
Sadly, I expect the FCO Advisory Group to be busy. If anything, persecution of people for their religious beliefs is on the rise in many parts of the world; in Baroness Warsi’s words, “a global crisis”. There are many excellent groups like CSW doing important work wherever persecution takes place. It is right that the issue should also be a priority for the UK government.
UK Ambassador to the Holy See