On 5th April 2016 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to three questions on religious freedom, and post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the extent of freedom of religion or belief in Iraq and in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Government is firmly committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion and belief in Iraq and condemns strongly all persecution on the grounds of faith or creed.
The situation for religious communities including Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others in Iraq remains deeply concerning. Daesh has committed atrocities against religious groups and persecuted individuals and communities on the basis of their religion or beliefs.
Freedom of religion and belief is protected in the Iraqi constitution and we welcome the commitments made by the Government of Iraq to protect all Iraqis and address human rights abuses and violations.
We continue to engage with religious leaders both in the UK and in Iraq to discuss the situation of religious communities. We also encourage influential religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly and condemn sectarian violence. We are working to build consensus around the importance of freedom of religion and belief, as well as its promotion and protection. This includes funding a project to prevent intolerance and violence towards religious communities by inspiring key leaders in Iraqi society to publicly defend and support the right of all Iraqis to freedom of religion and belief.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to assist the government of Iraq in its efforts to encourage post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction in areas now liberated from Daesh in Iraq.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: With our partners in the Global Coalition and the wider international community, the UK is supporting the Government of Iraq’s recovery efforts in areas liberated from Daesh.
In the last year UN Development Programme (UNDP) report that these efforts have contributed to the return of 170,000 people to Tikrit, 49,000 people to Al Dour and 15,000 people to Mkeishifa.
Specific UK support includes providing: £2.5 million for UNDP’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation, which supports community reconciliation and the rehabilitation of infrastructure in newly liberated areas of stabilisation; a stabilisation advisor for UNDP; a Communications Advisor to support the Governor of Anbar; and £225,000 to UN Mine Action Service to establish a coordination unit to assess the scope of explosive threats. During his recent visit to Iraq, the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), discussed with Prime Minister Abadi the importance of reconciliation and rebuilding the lives of all Iraqis.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of progress towards political reconciliation and community cohesion in Iraq.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We welcome the commitments that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has made to reaching out to all of Iraq’s communities and delivering the reforms needed to progress reconciliation in Iraq.
Although Prime Minister Abadi has taken a number of important steps in this regard, including appointing the most inclusive government that Iraq has seen for a decade and advancing decentralisation, the reconciliation process remains in the early stages, with progress slow.
Key elements of the reconciliation agenda – including legislation aimed at addressing the grievances of Iraq’s communities – remain at various stages of deliberation in Parliament.
During his recent visit to Iraq the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), discussed the importance of genuine reform and meaningful reconciliation with Prime Minister Abadi and emphasised the importance of progress. We continue to support Prime Minister Abadi in his efforts to build a better future for all of Iraqis.