Sunday, 31 May 2015

Campaign Letter #16: Christian Persecution

Thank you for your letter on the subject of religious intolerance.

To pick up upon the first topic that you allude to: that of registrars performing same-sex marriage.

To be clear, I support the right of two adults to marry, regardless of their gender.

There is a school of thought that the registrars are employed to uphold the law of the land and their legal remit.  Personally I think that is a rather harsh approach.  I understand that recognition of same-sex marriage is although right, it is also a problem for some in society.  When that person is expected to conduct marriages that they were not expected to perform previously, I think a period of "grandfathering" of contracts should have been considered under these particular circumstances only.  All new and existing registrars should be expected to change to the new laws but those in a small minority who did object being allowed to stay on until their jobs came to a natural end.  I know that is controversial in both ways and is, I repeat, a personal view.

On the broader point, Liberal Democrats believe freedom of religion or belief and freedom not to practice a religion are fundamental and universal human rights. Liberal Democrats will always ensure the promotion and protection of human rights – including freedom of religion – is at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy. We will ensure this is the case if we are in the next Government. I condemn religious persecution in any form.

It is a sad reality that where freedom of religion is under threat that generally other freedoms are under attack too. I believe governments across the world must ensure the right conditions so that everyone can freely practice their religion.

The recent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East and Africa is very worrying. I’m pleased that the Liberal Democrats in Government have continued to draw attention to and denounce violence and discrimination against individuals and groups because of their beliefs.

We will continue to call for more open and inclusive societies as this is the best way of ensuring security for Christians and other believers. In Government we have worked with the Arab Partnership to strengthen political participation, the rule of law and sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We will continue to do so if we are back in Government.

It is very encouraging that last year UN Member States passed resolutions on freedom of religion or belief and combating intolerance. We have called upon all UN Member States to put these resolutions into practice so that no-one is persecuted or discriminated against on the grounds of their religion or belief. I was proud that in March the UK, alongside our EU partners, sponsored a successful resolution on Freedom of Religion at the UN Human Rights Council.

These resolutions will help countries work together to protect these fundamental human rights. The next Government must ensure these resolutions are put into practice and continue to work alongside the UN and EU and other multilateral organisations to achieve universal freedom of religion.

Liberal Democrats believe we must also raise individual cases directly with nations. We will continue to highlight practices and laws that discriminate against people on the basis of their religion or belief. We have already secured improvements through engagement with countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria. We will continue to work with the leaders of different faiths in the UK to increase our understanding of the issues.

Through Liberal International, Liberal Democrats are supporting those campaigning for freedom of belief, like Lebanon’s Future Movement, Egypt’s Democratic Front and even newer movements in the emerging democracies of the Middle East.

I think it is important also not to overlook persecution among friendly states too.  Wherever freedom of belief, non-belief or diversity of belief is threatened or suppressed, then our voice should be heard.  All should be free to practice worship in their own tradition, without harming others and in turn without fear of harm to themselves.

If you have any further issues or points you would like to raise, I will be glad to hear from you.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Veart
Scottish Liberal Democrats,
Edinburgh North and Leith.

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