Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion Bill backed by Foreign Secretary

Tue 23 Apr 2024 by Heather Preston

Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron has backed calls to make the appointment of a Special Envoy for International Freedom of Religion or Belief a legal requirement.

Addressing Lord Cameron on international religious freedom and belief, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen said: “Will the Foreign Secretary confirm his support for the Bill to place the vital international role of the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on FORB on a statutory footing?”

The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, MP Fiona Bruce was appointed to the role in December 2020, following recommendations from the Truro review, authored by Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen when he was Bishop of Truro.

The Special Envoy promotes and protects international freedom of religion and belief, highlighting cases of concern and advocating for the rights of those facing discrimination and persecution for their faith.

The International Freedom of Religion or Belief Bill seeks to make the role a statutory position.

Responding to Bishop Philip, Cameron said: “I can certainly give the right reverend Prelate that confirmation. I very much agree with the Bill. In fact, I insisted that it went forward with government support.

He added: “Fiona Bruce does an excellent job in this regard and, for the first time, one of these governmental envoys will be placed on a statutory footing. That reflects the importance that we in this Government and in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office attach to celebrating freedom of religious belief.”

The question came amid concerns over violations of religious freedom in India in recent months. Clashes between the majority Meitei and the largely Christian Kuki people in began in May 2023 and has seen around 200 people killed, many of them Christians in the Indian state of Manipur. Churches have also come under attack, with many burned to the ground. Violence flared up again last week as voters cast ballots in the country’s national election. Election officials claim there were at least six instances of armed groups trying to take over polling stations in the Manipur capital Imphal.

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