The Church of England is to take part in a Government-funded project to help parliamentarians and faith leaders identify the barriers to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and try to break them down.
The Church will work with ten other organisations in eight countries in Africa and Asia to respond to FoRB challenges in their countries.
The £5.6 million project will run until autumn 2023.The money is part of the UK Connect Aid fund, originally set up by the Department for International Development which has now merged with the Foreign Office. The fund aims to reduce poverty around the world through different charities and methods, such as increasing freedom of religion, tackling modern slavery and addressing LGBT and disability inclusion in those countries.
The funding of the project follows the Bishop of Truro's report into the persecution of Christians around the world and the growing awareness that violations of religious people are intensifying and are often hidden from sight, despite it being enshrined in Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights
The project is being co-ordinated by the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSSC) at Oxford University, which will lead the research, while the Church of England will lead on the day-to-day delivery.
Dr Charles Reed, the Church of England's international affairs adviser and operations director for the project said: "At a time when freedom of religion is increasingly contested as a human right, and when the human rights system itself is under strain, we shouldn't forget that everyone, everywhere has this right by virtue of being human."
"Parliamentarians and belief leaders have considerable untapped potential to make a positive impact on the human rights landscape whether by reforming discriminatory legislation or by using their influence over the hearts and minds of millions of people."
The Church of England's lead bishop for international affairs, Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said: "According to a study published by the Pew Forum in June 2018 around 83 per cent of the world's population live in countries with high or very high levels of restrictions on religion or belief.
"Sadly, this situation has worsened in recent months as a result of the global health pandemic.
"I'm encouraged that the Church of England is responding to this challenge by working with others to resource and equip parliamentarians and faith and belief leaders to defend such a basic human right - a right that touches on the very essence of what it means to be human."
Other organisations who will be involved include: African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Drik Picture Library and Gallery, International Commission of Jurists, International Panel of Parliamentarians for FoRB, Jinnah Institute, Nordic Ecumenical Network on FoRB, Pak Mission Society and the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa. The Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, based at Oxford, is also offering strategic advice.