Catholic Union briefed on religious freedom work

The Catholic Union met the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Religious Freedom, Rehman Chishti MP, this week (27 January).

Director, Nigel Parker, and Head of Public Affairs, James Somerville-Meikle, met Mr Chishti in the Foreign Office to discuss the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Truro report into Christian persecution.

The report – published last year – found that 250 million Christians face persecution around the world, accounting for 80 per cent of all religiously motivated discrimination. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, has committed to implement all 22 recommendations of the report in full.

The establishment of an Advisory Board for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), along with a FoRB Champion at Director General level in the Foreign Office, were both recommendations in the report and both have now been established.

Mr Chishti briefed the Catholic Union on other work being done to implement the report. This includes exploring options for a UN resolution to protect Christians in the Middle East and exploring options for prosecuting people involved in crimes against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

The Foreign Office ‘toolkit’ on religious persecution has been relaunched to help improve action on religious freedom by diplomats at overseas missions. Work is also being stepped up with other departments to make them aware of the Government’s objectives on religious freedom.

James Somerville-Meikle commented: “It’s clear that a lot of good work has been done to make sure this report does not simply sit on a shelf and gather dust. Mr Chishti has hit the ground running and it’s encouraging to see the progress made in a relatively short space of time. But real change will take time. We need to see a culture change across Whitehall, which sees promoting freedom of religion at the heart of our foreign policy and having an impact across the board – from our immigration policy to how we trade with countries. This will require political leadership and some difficult decisions. With new trade deals on the horizon and the development of a new immigration policy, the Government’s commitment to promoting religious freedom will soon be tested.”

Mr Chishti and the Bishop of Truro addressed a Catholic Union meeting in November 2019 at St Mary Moorfields Church in London.