Christian Organisations Call on Blair to Tackle Worldwide Persecution

A host of leading Christian and religious organisations have signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair to tackle issues of persecution on a global scale.

The joint letter to Blair marks the 25th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief on 25th November 2006.

In it the Christians call for a cross-departmental strategy for tackling religious persecution worldwide.

The letter, signed by 24 UK-based religious leaders and faith-based organisations from different traditions, highlights "the violations of religious freedom that are taking place worldwide and outlines fifteen recommendations to the government on ways to assist in countering violations of religious freedom", explained Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a human rights group that has backed the letter.

The recommendations include:
1) To appoint an envoy for religious freedom to investigate cases of religious persecution and prepare briefings for relevant government departments and parliamentary committees.

2) To require British Embassies and High Commissions to prepare an annual report on the state of local equality and tolerance, including freedom of religion and belief.

3) To train Foreign Office and Home Office Case Officers (and others where appropriate, such as in the Research Directorate), to ensure promotion of the right to freedom of religion and belief, accurate reporting of religious persecution, and the provision of relief and asylum for victims of religious persecution.

4) To support peace and reconciliation initiatives designed to counter religious hatred and promote understanding.

CSW's Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert, said: "Twenty five years after the adoption of this UN declaration, the international promotion of the elimination of religious intolerance and discrimination still lags far behind mechanisms adopted in other areas of human rights, such as the elimination of racial discrimination.

"It is time the international community recognises the need to commit to ensuring the implementation of this declaration.

"In the worldwide Church, some estimate that upwards of 250 million people are suffering as a result of their faith, with Christians being harassed, attacked, imprisoned, tortured and even killed for their choice of faith. UN instruments clearly indicate that it is a basic human right to adopt and practice a religion or belief."

Lambert concluded: "On the anniversary of this UN declaration, we hope that those who still suffer so much for exercising this right will be remembered. Through this letter to the UK government, we a calling for a more proactive stance in promoting religious freedom worldwide."

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