A Christian MP has urged the Government for more support for Non-Governmental Organisations and churches in developing nations during the pandemic.
Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford, led the House of Commons debate highlighting the role churches play in helping those most needed, often in partnership with international charities.
"Every church in my constituency of Strangford has been involved in missionary and charity work in countries across the world, whether it be through WaterAid or education or health projects - all paid for voluntarily.
"All churches - Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Reformed Presbyterian, Congregational, small assemblies and my own Baptist Church - are involved in aid projects and missions across the world in many continents," Shannon said opening the debate.
As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Shannon demanded the Government should support vulnerable populations, provide more transparency about Covid-19 funding, better access for small NGOs to funding and for grants to be prioritised for the most vulnerable populations.
Shannon argued that cuts to funding for UK charities and to foreign aid would likely mean churches having to fill the gaps.
Minister of State, Nigel Adams who was representing Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society, said the Government acknowledged faith groups as "essential partners" and added it had committed nearly £70 million to international and UK NGOs.
"The UK will remain at the forefront of the international response as we recover and rebuild in the wake of Covid-19. We will be a force for good in those places most in need and for the most vulnerable communities. Our effectiveness will rely on the expertise of our partners, the NGOs whose brilliant work has been described so well this afternoon and the faith-based organisations," Adams said.
Speaking to Premier, Shannon said he welcomed the Government's response but said the situation needs to be monitored closely.
"We need more detail on funding for the future, we're going to have to watch this space over the next period of time," Shannon said. "I think...that the Government are keen to get back to the 0.7 [per cent], so what we need to make sure is over the next period of time, what the consultation process will be, what their final outcome will be as well," he added.
"There's absolutely no doubt that without the NGOs, without the faith groups, without the churches, that there will be a dearth, an absolute dearth, across all of in Asia, and India and Pakistan and the Middle East and Africa and South America, and in many other countries as well," he continued.
Shannon finished the debate with a biblical quote: "We have been called to be His hands and His feet - to clothe, to feed, to visit and to help. I say to our Government and our Minister that this House will do exactly that."