Religious Freedom Is Being Ignored This Election

July 5, 2024

RFI’s Miles Windsor argued in the The Critic this week that the “global persecution of Christians and other religious minorities will be a defining issue for the next [UK] government, but it is barely being discussed.” He writes:

The world has not become safer and less turbulent for 15 years of progressive Western disengagement. There are many reasonable justifications for the non-interventionism of recent years, but there can be little question that we have now entered an era for the autocrats and despots. The likes of China, Russia, and Iran have seized on the opportunity to step into the vacuum created by the withdrawal of Western governments...

Windsor continues:

Inevitably, this has tracked with a deterioration in the international religious freedom (IRF) landscape with minority religious communities the target of scapegoating, repression, and violence by government authorities and extremist communities around the world. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and a variety of smaller and even more vulnerable religious communities are at the sharp end of the riotous global unbridling of tyranny without consequence…

After giving multiple examples of increasingly aggressive despotic regimes, Windsor turns to what the United States and United Kingdom need to do in response, and the way international religious freedom policy, which should be integral to that response, was mostly ignored leading up to yesterday’s UK election.

Despite the growing non-interventionism by Western countries, the international community, often led by US and UK diplomacy, has developed a reasonable foundation for IRF policy. The International Religious Freedom and Belief Alliance (IRFBA) has been a positive addition in this space too. IRFBA is a coalition of more than 40 countries with national leadership-level participation, and the group continues to grow and gain momentum since it was established by US Secretary of State Pompeo early in 2020. The efforts of this alliance have seen a number of “prisoners of conscience”, spotlighted by their monthly campaign, released from prisons around the world. 

Considering the party manifestos on offer in today’s election, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have both committed to installing a Special Envoy or Ambassador for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). Labour makes no mention of religious freedom in their manifesto though, in the House of Commons prior to the election announcement, they committed in principle to reintroduce legislation placing the FoRB envoy role on a statutory footing. All such commitments are welcome. However, the appointment of a Special Envoy is just the beginning of what is needed if incoming governments in the UK and the US wish to move the needle in the right direction on this foundational and universal value.

Read the full article: “Religious freedom is being ignored this election.