The Bishop of Truro is calling on the government to prioritise the issue of freedom of religion and belief.
Speaking to Premier after a General Synod debate on the issue, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen said while the government has accepted the recommendations of his independent review into the subject, he fears issues such as trade deals, will take priority :
“One of the things that concerns me is that the two most populous countries in the world, India and China, are places which have an increasingly poor record in guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief. There's been increased violence and persecution of minorities, both Christian and Muslim in India, and yet these are both countries with which we want to do business, so I think that does raise a really important question for the government. Is it going to be business at any price? Or are we going to say no, there are lines in the sand that we will not cross and unless you sort your act out in this regard, we’re not going to play ball with you.”
The 2019 review was tasked with mapping the extent and nature of the global persecution of Christians and to assess the quality of the response of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It made 22 recommendations in terms of freedom of religion and belief for all. While some progress has been made, the clock is ticking on the three-year time frame for implementation.
Despite this, Bishop Philip says he remains encouraged by the government’s response: “They’ve gone out on a limb actually to say that they're going to do it, and I believe them when they say that they're committed to it. But you know, there are some problematic practicalities, if I can put it that way. And I think the challenge is to encourage the government to maintain that commitment to implementation, not just when it's easy to do, but when it can be challenging as well.