Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy has drawn attention to issues of freedom of religion. Twice in January Jeremy asked about freedom of religious belief at Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions in the House.
Most countries around the world have promised to uphold and respect the right to freedom of religion or belief, and yet time and time again we see this human right infringed. Too often countries limit what religion individuals or groups can follow, or restrict their freedom to change religion as they choose. No one should be subject to coercion or persecution for the faith or belief that they see as fundamental to their identity.
To raise these issues to Government attention, Jeremy asked:
“Is the issue of religious freedom raised at every possible opportunity, particularly in countries where people are persecuted for their faith—or lack of it?”
Rory Stewart, the then Minister of State for Africa, replied:
“Absolutely; religious freedom is critical, and particularly critical in a world in which religious and sectarian violence appears to be increasingly dominant. We must advocate religious freedom, and we do so also through Department for International Development support to civil society organisations.”
On a separate occasion Jeremy also specifically raised religious freedoms in Vietnam, asking:
“What recent assessment he has made of the level of religious freedom in Vietnam; and what steps the Government is taking to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief in that country.”
Mark Field, Minister for State for Asia and the Pacific, responded stating:
“Vietnam’s new Law on Religion and Belief came into effect on 1 January 2018. While it reduces the time required for religious groups to obtain official recognition it still retains many of the burdensome restrictions from previous Laws.
We raise our concerns about human rights on a regular basis with the Vietnamese government both bilaterally and through multilateral fora. At the most recent UK-Vietnam Strategic dialogue between 4 and 6 January 2018, I raised concerns regarding the strict control of civil and political rights in Vietnam, including freedom of expression and assembly, and the need for the Vietnamese government to create space for civil society...”