HC Deb 27 April 2001 vol 367 cc422-3W
Mr. Streeter

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Development about the promotion of religious freedom in Government aid programmes. [159392]

Mr. Battle

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. However, reality can fall far short of the standards set down in international law.

Promotion of human rights is at the heart of our foreign policy and we regard religious freedom as a fundamental human right. We condemn instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith, wherever it happens and whatever the religion of the individual or group concerned.

We take every opportunity, often working with our EU partners, to urge states to pursue laws and practices which foster tolerance and mutual respect and to protect religious minorities against discrimination, intimidation and attacks. We also regularly raise specific cases of religious persecution with the Governments concerned.

Wherever possible we aim to work with officials, religious leaders and non-governmental organisations at international and local level to promote mutual understanding and tolerance. Where the possibility of meaningful dialogue on human rights issues exists, we believe that this is the best way to achieve lasting change.

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