At a landmark launch event held in Parliament yesterday, more than 30 Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords received the Religious Freedom Toolkit designed by Christian Solidarity Worldwide to give parliamentarians effective tools to promote religious freedom.
For over 30 years CSW has worked to raise awareness of religious freedom violations around the world and to advocate for the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in various national and international platforms including the UK Parliament, US Congress, European Union and United Nations. In the UK, CSW’s work based on strong cross-party relationships has helped many MPs and Peers to speak up to promote this universal human right through Parliament.
The newly-published Religious Freedom Toolkit recognises the important role of MPs and Peers in advocating for FoRB in the global context where more than three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries with severe restrictions on their religious freedom. The toolkit provides an overview of different aspects of FoRB and describes the current situation in the 26 countries CSW works in. It also includes concrete information on both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary mechanisms for the Parliamentarians to use in their efforts to promote the right to FoRB.
The launch of the Religious Freedom Toolkit was hosted by Fiona Bruce MP, who is currently the Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. She said in her remarks, “Religious freedom is such a topical issue. I have been so encouraged in the last Parliament to see how it has risen up the agenda. We have been able to speak to this on many countries because of the briefings provided by CSW.“
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, highlighted the importance of equipping parliamentarians to promote religious freedom and encouraged them to use the toolkit in all the spheres of influence they have. “I am very encouraged by the number of people attending this important launch today. We are here to resource you to make a very loud noise about religious freedom”, he said.
Remarks were also made by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK. Bishop Angaelos, recently awarded an OBE for services to international religious freedom, said, “This toolkit, God willing, will provide for millions of advocates. Hopefully this will transform passion into action.”
The Government was represented at the event by Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister responsible for the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Counter Terrorism and Defence and International Security.