Today in Westminter Fiona contributed to a prayer breakfast co-hosted by Archbishop Angaelos and Bishop of Truro. Fiona's contribution can be read below.
"Thank you, Archbishop Angaelos.
Right across the world today people are losing their jobs, their education, their homes, their livelihoods, access to justice, even life itself, simply on account of what they believe. People are being discriminated against, marginalised, beaten, tortured, threatened and killed. And all too often by their own governments. The very governments with a duty to protect their own citizens freedom of religion or belief. And so we’ve gathered here this week to address this. Around 1000 delegates from up to 100 countries, but we haven’t just come to talk, we want to make a difference.
And so, what I’m going to do this morning in just the next few minutes is to ask if you would, as I suggest some of the practical steps that should be taken, after this conference, would you just quietly pray. We want governments to commit to action. Following this conference. To work together with other countries for change. Please pray for this. We need increased global action to help drive forward international efforts to protect and promote FoRB for everyone, everywhere. Please pray for this.
We need to ensure that policy makers have a better understanding of this issue and of religious literacy. Please pray for this. We need legal systems to be strengthened to ensure that when a country has signed up to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that this actually translates into practice. So that when a young woman goes into a police station who has been so called, forcibly married, raped, she can expect access to justice. Not to be turned away. Please pray for this.
We need to look at how we can better care for victims like such women. How can there be better trauma care? Please pray for this. We need to inspire a whole young generation of FoRB champions to spread the word about the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief across social media and using other means as they have done about climate change. Please pray for this.
We need to ensure that Governments work better with civil society organisations and grass roots community groups across the world, and faith groups. This will require political will and enduring commitment from the highest level of government working right down to the grass roots, backed up by real resources. Please pray for this.
We need to ensure that governments are better at identifying early warning signs, flash points, where communities are struggling to work and live in harmony and where if that is not tackled at an early stage, violence and even war can ensue. Please pray for this.
We need to look at ways to prevent the misuse of technology and how we can encourage governments to track freedom of religion or belief violations using technology in a positive way, but that they don’t use it in a negative way. Please pray for this.
As the chair this year of the International Freedom of Religion or Belief Alliance, an international organisation of a group of countries, we’re now 37 countries, with a number of countries associated with us bringing to over 40, and we were only founded just about two and a half years ago. Please pray for the growth and strengthening.
Finally, I felt that I wanted to read from Matthew Chapter 5. I want to read this as a blessing on you all. All of you here today who care about this issue, and I want you to receive this reading as a blessing. Just as I’ve asked you to pray for individual practical concerns, and to pick maybe one or two that you would take away from this meeting. The kind of issues I’ve referred to.
Please receive one of these verses, or more of them for you this morning. May it minister to you as I read this because I believe that the Lord is saying, ‘Well done good and faithful servants.’
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God. And Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen."