06 May 2015, The Tablet

Foreign secretary: the Tories will champion religious freedom

The foreign secretary Philip Hammond made an eleventh-hour appeal to religious voters with a pledge that a Conservative government would champion religious freedom.

Philip Hammond, writing for the Christian Today website, said: “As we have stated clearly in our election manifesto, the next Conservative government will continue to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and none. And, as a country with a generous overseas aid budget, we will continue to use that money to help prevent the conflict, instability and resource pressures that are so often among the drivers of religious persecution.”

Mr Hammond said threats to the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief were a modern-day injustice, and likened it to the Transatlantic Slave Trade 200 years ago.

“We simply cannot stand by while people are executed, abused, discriminated against or enslaved because of their faith or beliefs; and we will not,” he added.

He cited the reports of mass murder, forced conversions and sexual slavery to which some members of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria have been subjected, as well as the beheadings of Egyptian Copts and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians by Islamic State jihadists in Libya.

He concluded: “We surely owe it to those Christians who have been so brutally murdered in recent months for their religion to ensure that those who killed them do not succeed in their objective to silence the Christian voice and to demonstrate beyond doubt that they did not die in vain.”

Commenting on the persecution of Christians Ed Miliband said last month that a Labour government would appoint an envoy for religious freedom who would report to the Foreign Secretary, and establish a multi-faith advisory council on religious freedom within the Foreign Office. The Liberal Democrats have also said they would appoint an "Ambassador-Level Champion for freedom of belief to drive British diplomatic efforts in this field."

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