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UK News

Bishop of Truro to head up new government forum for the advancement of religious freedom across the globe

by Premier Journalist

A new Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) Forum has been set up following a landmark report into global Christian persecution by the Bishop of Truro last year.

Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro will chair the new initiative after the government accepted his findings and recommendation that the UK must become "the global leader in championing freedom of religion and belief [FoRB]". 

In an announcement, the government said it was commissioning the UK FoRB Forum "to ensure that the UK plays a leading role in global efforts to advance religious freedom or belief around the world". The Forum is due to be launched in September and will work to raise awareness of religious intolerance and discrimination across the globe. 

Bishop Philip said on Thursday: "In one of his first speeches to the House of Commons on the slave trade, William Wilberforce said this: 'You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.' My hope is that the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum will enable us all to look steadily at this egregious problem of our time, not to let it be overlooked, and together to face it down."

The group, which will comprise of representation from civil-society organisations, NGOs, academic organisations, and the Government, will seek to inform the government on policy-making in relation to the protection of religious expression and belief make recommendations for action. It will also liaise closely with the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on FoRB, Rehman Chishti MP, and the 
All-Party Parliamentary Group on FoRB in order to hold the government to account for the implementation of Bishop Mountstephen's recommendations.

To mark the anniversary of Mountstephen's landmark report, this week the government introduced a new regime of sanctions against countries that violate the religious freedom of their citizens. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced Monday that the first wave of designations under the UK's new Global Human Rights sanctions regime will sanction those involved in religious persecution, including two Myanmar generals, Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win.

The pair were designated for their involvement in the systematic killing, rape, sexual violence and enforced labour against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

Mr Raab said: "Everyone, no matter their faith or belief, deserves to be able to live a free and safe life, wherever they are in the world.
"Our new global human rights regime will allow the UK to protect people of all religions, faiths and no belief against serious human rights violations and abuses, and ensure the perpetrators are sent a clear message that the UK will not tolerate their atrocious actions." 

Mr Chishti, who is leading the government's implementation of the recommendations outlined by Mounstephen's review, said: "This Government aspires to be the global champion for freedom of religion or belief for all. I want every citizen around the world to enjoy this basic right. The freedom to practice faith or belief without discrimination is one of the foundations of a free society.

"During my time in office, I have taken forward 11 of the 22 Truro review recommendations, including overseeing the UK joining the International Religious Freedom Alliance, which allows like-minded member states to work together to promote freedom of religion or belief internationally, reinforcing the UK's commitment to be a global leader in championing freedom of religion or belief." 

Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for Human Rights at the FCO and DFID, added:

"There is a critical intersection of religious rights with broader security issues like gender-based violence, including trafficking and forced marriage.

"We know that free societies are more stable, more prosperous and more resilient against violent extremism, and our work on freedom of religion or belief, alongside our ongoing human rights work, is key to improving the livelihoods of millions across the world." 

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