"It is not only people of faith who suffer persecution, but also those who hold no faith - the UK Government is committed to promoting freedom of religion or belief for all. This means supporting and defending the freedoms of those suffering non-religious discrimination and persecution, as well as those suffering on account of their faith.
This was highlighted by my Ministerial colleague, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for Human Rights, at a recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. Lord Ahmad's speech and a summary of the event can be found below."
Lord Ahmad's speech at the recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Humanists Group meeting:
"Distinguished guests and colleagues. Good evening to you all, and thank you for the chance to address your AGM, and for all that you do to protect Humanists around the world.
I am sorry that I am unable to join you and hear the guest speakers today. I look forward to watching the interventions back and engaging with Dr Shaheed’s upcoming thematic report.
The work the speakers do provide further unwelcome evidence that, despite progress over recent years with the promotion of freedom of religion or belief for all, members of non-religious communities continue to be victims of harassment and persecution for their beliefs.
Let me be clear: The UK Government is committed to promoting freedom of religion or belief for all.
Violence, persecution, or prejudice, on the grounds of religion or belief, must not go unchallenged.
An associated issue where I think our assessments and interests collide, is the interplay between the repression of freedom of religion or belief, and other human rights
Take for example blasphemy laws, and how they are sometimes used to curtail freedom of expression as well as freedom of religion or belief.
I can assure you that the UK Government regularly applies diplomatic pressure on countries that use such laws to curtail other human rights, and target individuals from non-religious minority communities.
On 20 February, I did so by raising my concern about the use blasphemy laws in Pakistan, with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister, Dr Shireen Mazari.
I would also like to turn to gender rights, because they are often attacked when freedom of religion or belief is threatened, often to the detriment of non-religious communities.
That is why our human rights work considers the intersectionality of human rights – for example addressing the specific issues which may be experienced by women from religious or non-religious minority communities, such as forced conversion or forced marriage.
The entries in the 2020 Freedom of Thought Report make for uncomfortable reading.
The UK Government will continue to raise case of concern, as we have done in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh but to name a few.
We condemn all incidents of violence in Nigeria and in April, the Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, raised concerns about insecurity and intercommunal violence with the Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria, the Nigerian Foreign Minister and community leaders.
We are also concerned by reports of discrimination and violence against members of religious minority groups in Pakistan and I raised this issue with Pakistan’s Special Representative for Religious Harmony on 23 March.
In the face of all these challenges, I can assure you that protecting freedom of religion or belief for all faiths - and none - remains a priority for the UK Government.
I am working tirelessly with the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for FoRB, Fiona Bruce MP, to deliver the 22 recommendations from the Bishop of Truro’s report in full.
The implementation of the recommendations will enhance the UK response to the plight of all individuals persecuted for their faith or belief.
On the 22 recommendations, we have fully delivered 10, made good progress on a further 8, and we are confident that all 22 will be delivered next year in a way that will bring real improvements to the lives of those persecuted for being agnostic, humanist, atheist or for not holding a religion.
No one should be harassed, attacked, or arrested for choosing not to believe in God, and the UK Government will continue to act against such hatred, for as long as such suffering continues."
A full summary of the recent All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group meeting can be found here: ‘Harassed. Attacked. Arrested.’ Humanists in Parliament hear about global worrying rise in non-religious persecution » Humanists UK (humanism.org.uk).