Fri 23 Nov 2018
By Cara Bentley
As a report is launched about religious freedom around the world, three members of parliament have challenge Lord Tariq Ahmad on the case of Asia Bibi.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need have released their bi-annual report on religious freedom.
In summary, they found that the situation for minority faith groups has deteriorated in 18 of the 38 countries under review.
The report covers these countries in more detail: India, Burma, Iraq, Philippines, Egypt, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Spain, France and Mexico.
Russia and Kyrgyzstan were added to the ‘discrimination’ category for the first time.
To launch the report, Lord David Alton of Liverpool invited Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion and belief to speak to a crowd of politicians, campaigners and journalists in the House of Lords.
Lord Ahmad spoke about how he was personally concerned with the issue of freedom of belief as an Ahmadi Muslim, a group who have also been targets of persecution.
Three politicians asked questions of Lord Ahmad.
Rehman Chishti MP, who resigned last week as Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party over the withdrawal agreement and the government’s response to Asia Bibi’s release challenged Lord Ahmad on the UK’s tentative attitude about saying whether they were offering her asylum or not.
Chishti said we should put our “British values” and high regard for religious freedom into practise and expressed his concern that no one from the government had met Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih or Eisham – Asia Bibi’s daughter, when they visited in the summer.
Chishti added that the Chief Justice of Pakistan had told him Asia is allowed to leave the country legally and is not on an Exit Control List.
Lord Ahmad replied that the government are doing “all we can” to secure the safety and protection of Asia Bibi.
Baroness Cox, a Christian member of the House of Lords, asked whether the UK should stop giving thousands of pounds worth of aid to Pakistan every day until Asia Bibi leaves the country safely. Lord Ahmad replied that he didn’t think that would be a proportionate response.
Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, picked up on Lord Ahmad’s comment that persecution starts with discrimination and reflected that we should act on the signs of discrimination here in cases of anti-semitism and street preachers being arrested because of a lack of religious literacy.
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