Combating religious intolerance

You read about antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism in the newspapers almost every day at the moment. Intolerance is on the rise throughout the world and it would seem that Western democracies are not immune from such hatreds. As the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said in a debate in the House of Lords last month: 

“Antisemitism, or any hate, becomes dangerous when three things happen. First: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second: when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three: when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so.” 

He concluded: 

“All three factors exist in Britain now. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. That is why I cannot stay silent. For it is not only Jews who are at risk. So too is our humanity.” 

He’s right about the rising tide of religious and racial intolerance, fuelled by populism from the far-right and the far-left. It’s driven by a mix of factors and manifests itself in the form of identity politics, religious nationalism and extremism. The result is discrimination and persecution. 

Yesterday in Parliament when the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, made a statement about Sri Lanka, he spoke for us all: 

“These attacks were a primitive and vile attempt to sow division between people of different faiths. Religious tensions have caused some of the bloodiest battles in human history, and it is sombre and sobering that even in the 21st century attempts continue to set believers of different religions against each other. Our response must be to deny the perpetrators the satisfaction of dividing us by being united in our condemnation of the attacks and united in our support for religious tolerance— surely one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Just as after the equally horrific attacks on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, we must respond by bringing people together; that is the exact opposite of what the perpetrators intended. 

The UK will never stand by in the face of such evil. Today, we stand in solidarity with the Government and people of Sri Lanka, who have made enormous strides towards stability and peace following the conclusion of the civil war almost exactly 10 years ago. 

To attack Christian worshippers at Easter, which is a celebration of peace and the holiest day in the Christian calendar, betrays in the attackers an absence of the most basic values of humanity.”  

The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary noted in their Easter messages the dangers facing Christians around the world, 300 of whom are killed every month. In response to such acts, we must redouble our efforts to protect the freedom of religious minorities to practise their faiths, wherever they are. I am delighted that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asked the Bishop of Truro to do an independent report into what more can be done to protect persecuted Christians around the world.