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UK: 24 out of 30 countries in Human Rights Report on World Watch List

28 July 2017

24 out of 30 countries in Human Rights Report on World Watch List

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office launched its 2016 Annual Human Rights Report this week, and of the 30 countries designated as countries of special concern, 24 are also listed in the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List. This includes all of the countries in the top 10 on the World Watch List.

The countries highlighted in this year's Annual Human Rights Report are (in alphabetical order):

  • Afghanistan (number 3 on the 2017 World Watch List)
  • Bahrain (number 48)
  • People's Republic of Bangladesh (number 26)
  • Burma (Myanmar - number 28)
  • Burundi (not on the World Watch List this year)
  • Central African Republic (number 34)
  • China (number 38)
  • Colombia (number 50)
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea (number 1)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (not on the World Watch List this year)
  • Egypt (number 21)
  • Eritrea (number 10)
  • Iran (number 8)
  • Iraq (number 7)
  • The State of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Palestinian Territories are number 23)
  • Libya (number 11)
  • Republic of Maldives (number 13)
  • Pakistan (number 4)
  • Russia (not on the World Watch List this year)
  • Saudi Arabia (number 14)
  • Somalia (number 2)
  • South Sudan (not on the World Watch List this year)
  • Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (number 45)
  • Sudan (number 5)
  • Syria (number 6)
  • Turkmenistan (number 19)
  • Uzbekistan (number 16)
  • Venezuela (not on the World Watch List this year)
  • Yemen (number 9)
  • Zimbabwe (not on the World Watch List this year)

This overlap highlights the extent to which freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) really is, as it has often been referred to, the 'canary in the coal mine' for human rights abuses. Where FoRB is undermined, other human rights are often under threat too. This leaves us in no doubt that dealing with the root causes of persecution against religious minorities will lead to a more cohesive society for everyone.

Promoting freedom of religion or belief

As well as highlighting the 30 countries which the UK Government has designated as 'priority countries', which have human rights records of special concern, the report also covers the UK government's work in promoting human rights as well as alleviating human rights abuses across the world.

The report, which looks back over 2016, makes special reference to the Government's work in raising the issue of FoRB for Christian minorities in Myanmar and Pakistan, as well as noting its work to ensure FoRB is included in the curriculum of secondary schools in the Middle East and North Africa - one of the key recommendations of the Hope for the Middle East campaign.

The Government also outlines its three objectives on FoRB for 2017. These include championing the promotion and protection of FoRB in the Middle East, promoting FoRB in relation to its work on violent extremism - ensuring that FoRB is encouraged as part of promoting tolerant, pluralistic and inclusive societies - as well as engaging with effective multilateral negotiations which are devoted to maintaining consensus on FoRB related resolutions.

"There is no longer an 'over there'"

At the launch of the report, Foreign Office Minister with special responsibility for Human Rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, both addressed the audience.

In opening the event, Lord Ahmad gave special reference to FoRB, noting that it is a 'personal priority' for him as he takes up his new role at the Foreign Office. Open Doors UK and Ireland welcomes Lord Ahmad's prioritisation of FoRB, and looks forward to working closely with him to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities enjoy this fundamental human right.

Lord Ahmad then went on to note that faith leaders are 'key to this effort', emphasising how important it is that the government and faith leaders work together. These remarks firmly back the calls of the One Million Voices of Hope petition, which calls on the UK Government and United Nations to identify and equip religious leaders and faith-based organisations to play a constructive and central role in reconciling and rebuilding both Syrian and Iraqi societies. You can also back this call by signing and sharing the petition today.

Following Lord Ahmed's opening remarks, His Grace, Bishop Angaelos continued along a similar theme, highlighting the role that the government and faith-based organisations can play in countering religious persecution. He spoke of how the globalised world in which we live means that we can all play our part in countering persecution, saying: "In the world today, there is no longer an 'over there'." He emphasised how important it is that we speak up for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith across the world.

Once again, the report and its launch brings home the vast work that needs to be accomplished by governments, Parliamentarians, churches, church leaders, and committed individuals to ensure that the right to FoRB is enjoyed by Christians and other religion minorities across the world.

Please pray:

  • That FoRB would not only be a priority for the UK Government in word but also in deed
  • That Lord Ahmad's hope to see faith leaders take a prominent role in spreading the international right to FoRB would come to fruition
  • For greater collaboration across government, parliament, human rights organisations and churches to promote FoRB.

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