On 14th March 2017 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to five questions to Government on aid and religious freedom in Iraq and Egypt.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 20 February (HL5242), what percentage of the £9.25 million pledged by the UK to the UN’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation has been provided.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The £9.25 million UK pledge to the UN’s Funding for Immediate Stabilisation (FFIS) originally included funding allocated to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Integrated Reconciliation Programme. At the request of the UNDP, who are responsible for the management of the FFIS and Reconciliation projects, this has now been created as a standalone project. The UK has delivered more than our initial pledge to this Reconciliation project. Therefore, the UK’s revised commitment to the FFIS is £8.82 million and the UK has so far delivered approximately 76% of this and the remainder will be delivered in the coming months.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 20 February (HL5247), what percentage of funds distributed under the Magna Carta Fund in 2016 were allocated to projects promoting interreligious dialogue and co-operation in Iraq and the right to freedom of religion or belief for all of Iraq’s religious communities.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The UK’s Magna Carta Programme in financial year 2015-2016 spent £115,000 in Iraq, which represented 1% of the programme’s total spend. That money helped deliver an education programme on religious freedom to Iraqi schools, as well as a training course on international law and freedom of religion or belief to religious leaders, human rights advocates, academics and journalists. In financial year 2016-2017, there is no Magna Carta project focused solely on Iraq, but a £153,000 project (1.44% of the total fund) will promote legal and social protection for freedom of religion or belief across the region – including in Iraq.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions have taken place with the government of Egypt regarding the recent attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt, including in Al-Arish, Sinai.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to help the government of Egypt provide for the security and well-being of religious minorities in Egypt.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the vulnerability of Coptic Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We deplore all discrimination against religious minorities and constraints on their freedom to practise their faith. The Egyptian constitution contains protections for freedom of religious belief and it is important that these rights are respected.
Coptic Christians make up approximately 10% of Egypt’s population. There were at least 41 reports of sectarian incidents in Egypt in 2016.
We have regularly raised our concerns about the deterioration in the human rights situation with the Egyptian government, including issues affecting Christians and other minorities. We welcome President Sisi’s consistent calls for peaceful coexistence and the Government of Egypt’s expression of support for the rights of Christians and for religious tolerance.