Today marks the official UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.
As outlined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to change their religion or belief. All people, religious and non-religious, should be able to practice and profess their religion or belief free from persecution. Unfortunately, millions of people continue to face appalling persecution every day because of their beliefs.
Uyghur Muslims in China face some of the harshest religious repression. The Chinese Government reportedly have imprisoned over 1 million Uyghurs in concentration camps and are subjected to egregious human rights bases, including denouncement of religion and forced labour. With the Taliban takeover, religious minorities in Afghanistan, including Shia Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are also at risk of persecution.
The protection of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is at the heart of Labour’s foreign policy. The Government must do everything in its power to ensure that people across the world of all faiths and none have the freedom to pursue their belief without fear of harassment or victimisation. This should include using all diplomatic means available, including bilateral relations and multilateral forums such as the UN, to ensure that international law is adhered to where there are humanitarian issues and breaches of human rights.
I hope the Government will ensure that it continues to advocate for the rights of individuals being discriminated against or persecuted on the basis of their faith or belief, including members of non-religious communities.
You can read my statement here.