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World News

PM appoints Rehman Chishti as new Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief

by Cara Bentley

The Conservative MP has frequently raised questions in House of Commons debates about the problems religious minorites face, particularly focusing on the case of Asia Bibi who faced the death sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy against Islam.

Chishti cited the Government's response to Bibi's case, and its seeming reluctance to grant her asylum in the UK, as one of the reasons he resigned as Vice-Chair of the Conservative party.

In his new position, Chishti will promote religious tolerance abroad and lead the implementation of the recommendations from the recent review into the Foreign Office's support for persecuted Christians led by the Bishop of Truro.

He will also advocate for the rights of individuals in the UK who are being discriminated against for their faith or belief and his appointment means the Government now has a dedicated person on the issue of religious freedom.

The Envoy role was previously held by FCO Minister Lord (Tariq) Ahmad, who will continue to cover human rights in his Ministerial capacity as the Prime Minister's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and as Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

Before he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said he would implement the recommendations of Bishop Philip Mountstephen's report. 

Mr Johnson said of the new appointment: "People across the world deserve the chance to practise their beliefs freely. I'm delighted to appoint Rehman as my new Special Envoy and look forward to him building on the important work we have already done on this issue. The UK will always be a passionate advocate for greater tolerance, respect and understanding internationally."

Rehman Chishti MP said: "I am delighted to have been appointed as the PM's Special Envoy. I have championed freedom of religion and beliefs for much of my life. I shall use the UK Government's global network to take real action to support those persecuted for their faith or belief, and promote greater understanding and respect between faiths.

"As someone whose family came to the UK when I was six years old, and my father had taken up a role as an Imam, my family and I have always been able to openly and freely practise our faith. I want to ensure every citizen around the world is able to enjoy this basic right. Freedom of Religion, practice and belief is one of the foundations of a free society.

"I pay tribute to Lord Ahmad for all his work on this area over recent years."

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