The persecution of Christians, and indeed any religious group, is entirely unacceptable and I agree that 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 right around the world and I appreciate you drawing my attention to the upcoming launch of the latest report by Open Doors. I was concerned to learn from the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List report that the level of overall persecution of Christians had risen for the fourth year in a row. The recent marking of International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day on 27 October also served to highlight this important problem.
I believe the Government must use the UK’s influence to stand up for the rights that all human beings are entitled to, including religious freedom, and that they should be a cornerstone of our foreign policy. That is why the manifesto I stood on at the General Election in June pledged to appoint a global ambassador for religious freedom to fight discrimination and promote equality globally.
We must do everything in our power to ensure that people of faith in Ipswich and across the world have the freedom to pursue their beliefs without fear of harassment or victimisation. I also believe the UK should use all diplomatic means available, including bilateral relations and multilateral forums such as the UN Human Rights Council, to ensure that international law is adhered to where there are humanitarian problems and breaches of human rights.
I am not yet clear what my commitments will be for 17 January 2018 and so unfortunately I am not currently able to pledge to attend the event on that day. But this is an important matter and I can assure you that I will continue to follow it closely, whether or not I am free to attend the event in January.