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UK: Statement of MP Fiona Bruce about victims of acts of violence based on religion

Fiona Bruce: We need to act together to help victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief

Fiona Bruce MP is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

By Fiona Bruce MP

Conservatisme Home (22.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/2ULSmzP – Today marks the United Nation’s International Day Commemorating Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, states Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, committed to by the international community in 1948 following the Holocaust.

Sadly, however, acts of violence against people based on their religion or belief are by no means an issue of the past. Still today, in 2021, people around the world are subjected to such violence that will shape their lives for years to come.

Tragic events unfolding before our eyes in Afghanistan highlight this only too clearly. As the Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons this week, “we must live up to the best traditions of this country in playing our part in offering safe haven to those Afghans who are now fleeing persecution from the Taliban.”

Still today, close to 3,000 Yazidi women and children are missing after Daesh abducted them from Sinjar in August 2014. Many have been subjected to daily and unimaginable abuse for over seven years and there is no promise that this suffering will cease anytime soon. To this day, there are close to 10,000 Daesh fighters in Syria and Iraq waiting for the opportunity to strike again and attack the religious mosaic in both countries.

Still today, since 2017, over a million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities have been extra-judicially detained in “political re-education camps,” prevented from praying and observing religious practices; facing systematic restrictions on their culture; their places of worship destroyed.

Still today, religious minority women and girls, including from Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities, are abducted in Pakistan, subjected to forced conversions and forced marriages. Some as young as 12 – forced to be adults before their time.

Still today, men and women accused of blasphemy are sentenced to death by courts or attacked by mobs taking ‘justice’ in their own hands.

Still today, perpetrators of brutal acts of violence based on religion or belief enjoy impunity; their crimes rarely investigated; prosecutions do not follow. This sends the harrowing message that you can get away with your crimes, especially if you target religious or belief minorities.

There is much more the international community can do to address acts of violence based on religion or belief. As we mark today, we need to focus on joint action to help victims and survivors of such acts of violence, to hold perpetrators to account and to strengthen steps preventing such egregious acts of violence in the future.

Indeed, the Government has been actively working in this direction, in particular on our manifesto commitment to implement in full the Bishop of Truro’s Review recommendations, which seek to ensure that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) comprehensively responds to persecution based on religion or belief globally.

Plainly the UK can’t tackle this issue alone; to do so effectively requires international cooperation, as the Truro Review recommends. The Government is implementing these recommendations to ensure FCDO work is equipped to address the global challenges to freedom of religion or belief for all, and in its determination to be a force for good in the world.

The UK is also a founding member of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, a growing network of 33 countries fully committed to advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world. Together we identify areas for action and use our collective voice to highlight situations of concern of vulnerable communities – as we did recently, standing with people of all faiths and beliefs subjected to inhumane treatment in Myanmar.

The British Government has also engaged leaders of religion and belief to dismantle harmful misinterpretations of religious texts as part of its work to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict. A founding document, the Declaration of Humanity, launched November 2020, has united 50 faith and belief leaders, governments and NGOs around the world in a call to prevent sexual violence in conflict and denounce the stigma faced by survivors, including children born of rape.

This year, the UK is funding projects led by faith and belief leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that will enable communities affected by conflict-related sexual violence to develop action plans guided by the principles of the Declaration of Humanity.

However, we cannot assume that violent acts against people of faith occur only beyond our borders. In the past few days we have seen a “violent and unprovoked attack” at a cathedral in the UK, where a priest was hit with a glass bottle whilst he sat praying alone in a pew, and heard the shocking news of a woman, whilst speaking of her faith, being attacked with a knife at Speaker’s Corner.

Leaders of religion and belief must play their role in countering narratives which aim to justify such violence whenever and wherever it occurs – indeed this is a job for us all. So let’s mark this year’s International Day of Commemoration with a fresh resolution to strive together to make acts of violence based on religion or belief truly something of the past.

Photo : Fiona Bruce MP – Conservative Home

Further reading about FORB in United Kingdom on HRWF website





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UK: Fiona Bruce MP appointed Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for FoRB

APPG (20.12.2020) – https://bit.ly/2KWZqEc – Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, has been appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP as his Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Speaking on her appointment Fiona Bruce said

I am honoured to be given this opportunity to serve as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. There is much to do, and my post will be placed at the service of some of the most vulnerable people across the world. 

This appointment comes in the light of continuing large scale horrors taking place – such as those against Uighur Muslims in China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Yazidis in Iraq and at a time when, as the late and much respected former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks stated “the persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and elsewhere, is one of the crimes against humanity of our time.” These are some of the most deeply concerning issues of our generation, on which it will be a privilege to engage as Special Envoy, both nationally and internationally, with others similarly concerned.”

Fiona Bruce continued,

Having travelled to countries such as Burma, Nigeria and Nepal and heard first hand accounts of atrocities and persecution being meted out there, I know how much those who are suffering from this appreciate advocacy on their behalf, even from afar. 

The role of Special Envoy for FoRB is based upon Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a founder member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a signatory to that APPG’s first report of 2013 – which described Article 18 as an “orphaned right,” – I believe it is time to bring the orphan out of the orphanage. 

As the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, I look forward to continuing to work alongside colleagues in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and pay tribute to their dedicated work , and that of others, on behalf of some of the most persecuted, vulnerable and afflicted on earth. I hope to build on this work to further raise the profile of FoRB as a human right. For as Boris Johnson MP the Prime Minister said recently in the House of Commons “We all know that wherever freedom of belief is under attack, other human rights are under attack as well.”

In 2010 Fiona became Member of Parliament for Congleton. Prior to 2010 Fiona practised as a solicitor, setting up her own business, the law firm Fiona Bruce & Co LLP, based in Cheshire.

Throughout her time in Parliament Fiona has focused on championing individual freedoms and human rights, both in this country and abroad, including the right of religious freedom or belief.

Fiona served on the International Development Select Committee for four years and chaired the Parliamentary sub-committee overseeing the Independent Commission on Aid Inspections. She currently sits on the Parliamentary Joint-Committee on Human Rights and is also Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, an appointment made by the then-Prime Minister.

Fiona is also a Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for North Korea and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “Fiona Bruce is a champion for freedoms here & abroad. I look forward to working with her as the UK’s Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to make sure everyone, everywhere is free to have & practice a faith, belief, or not, in accordance with their conscience.”

Lord Ahmad tweeted “As the UK Minister for human rights, freedom of religion is a key priority; I’m delighted by the appointment of Fiona Bruce MP as the PM’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She’s a powerful & passionate advocate for FoRB & I look forward to working closely with her.”


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