MPs have taken a further step towards placing the role of the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief on a statutory footing, rather than keep it as an appointment at the discretion of the prime minister.
The present post holder, Fiona Bruce MP, put forward the proposal in a private members' bill in the Commons on Friday.
She said that freedom of religion or belief was not “niche”, as hundreds of millions of men, women and children around the world suffer persecution and discrimination, citing statistics that one Christian is killed every two hours for their faith.
"We live in an increasingly unstable world in which there are increasingly authoritarian regimes. Religious belief is anathema to any authoritarian regime, as they demand undivided loyalty.
"We can promote change today by supporting the Bill. Indeed, FORB concerns should be core concerns at every international summit, because they are at the core of so many violations of human rights across the world today.
Mrs Bruce gives the example of women in Iran for leading a charge that she said journalists and politicians "had failed to grasp" are fundamentally about Freedom of Religious Belief.
"We have become accustomed to countries paying lip service to FORB rights and obligations, and signing up to international agreements such as article 18 without honouring the obligations within them.
"It is simply not acceptable for a young girl to be kidnapped from her home and forcibly so-called married by being raped multiple times, and then when she goes to a police station or tries to get justice through the courts, to be turned away in a country that has signed up to article 18, with all of that happening simply because of her religious beliefs.
"Without the freedom to believe or not to believe, it is hard to see how other human rights can make sense.
Labour’s spokesperson Catherine West MP, backed the bill and said Labour would promote freedom of religion or belief as a key component of foreign policy.
Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell also backed the bill which now moves to the next stage through parliament.