Religious Freedom Is Back on the UK’s Agenda

April 25, 2024

RFI’s Miles Windsor wrote a piece this week for The Critic on how the International Freedom of Religion or Belief Bill, currently before parliament, shows that “Religious freedom is back on the agenda” in the UK.

Windsor writes:

When it comes to good news stories, Parliament hasn’t had a lot to offer of late. Scandal after scandal, along with divisive legislation on everything from the Rwanda policy to smoking bans have cast a dismal and depressing cloud over the House. However, representing a rare opportunity for political enthusiasm, the International Freedom of Religion or Belief Bill – let’s call it the Bruce Bill for short – is making progress through Parliament, and will be debated in committee this morning. Presented to Parliament by Fiona Bruce MP, the proposed legislation rightly enjoys the luxury of Government and cross-party support. If it continues unhindered through the committee stages and the House of Lords, it will become a statutory requirement for the Government to establish an Office for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, and to appoint a Special Envoy. Fiona Bruce currently serves as the Special Envoy but, at present, it is a role that is dependent on the whim of any given Prime Minister. 

The UK has been quietly emerging and advancing as a global leader on the issue of international religious freedom in recent years, in part through Fiona Bruce’s diligent and ardent efforts. In 2022, the Office of the Special Envoy secured and delivered a ministerial conference in London to advance religious freedom, which was attended by representatives of over 80 countries as well as 1000 survivors, religious leaders, and activists. In 2023, amongst other achievements as the chair of an alliance of over 40 nations (IRFBA) which is constituted to advance religious freedom around the world, the UK Special Envoy succeeded in securing the release of Hanna Abdimalik, a Christian in Somaliland, Shamil Khakimov, a Jehovah’s Witness in Tajikistan, and Bishop Rolando Álvarez, sentenced to 26 years imprisonment in Nicaragua. Fiona Bruce and her team have travelled all over the world to challenge abuses and promote change. Securing the role of a champion in government would further reinforce our status in the international community and ensure a voice for marginalised and oppressed individuals and communities the world over.

Read the full article: “Religious freedom is back on the agenda.”