On 20th April 2017 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered questions from MPs on the floor of the House of Commons, on religious symbols in the workplace, marriage, vocations, metal theft and Christians in Africa. She also answered written questions on debt, domestic violence and House of Lords reform:
Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): What assessment the Church of England has made of the implications of the European Court of Justice ruling of March 2017 on wearing religious dress and symbols in the workplace. 
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman): The Church of England was very concerned by the judgment of the European Court of Justice that stated that blanket bans on the wearing of political, philosophical or religious signs do not amount to cases of direct discrimination, because that conflicts with the pre-existing rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. By leaving the European Union, we presumably stand some chance of resolving such inconsistencies.Continue reading
On 15th March a Government statement was repeated in the House of Lords on the EU Court of Justice Ruling on Religious Signs. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, responded to the statement.
The Lord the Bishop of Chester: My Lords, given that there have been some very obvious differences between the UK and some continental countries in this area, does the Minister agree that the general approach in the UK of welcoming religious and cultural diversity must mean that welcoming its reasonable manifestation within the overall rhythms of British culture has stood us well in the past and will do so in the future, notwithstanding this court judgment?
On the 20th February 2017, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received an answer to a written question about the Government support for a UN inquiry into human rights abuses in Northern Rhakine.
Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016, whether they will support the UN in setting up an inquiry into human rights violations against the Rohingya.Continue reading
On the 20th February 2017, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to questions about the situation in Iraq.
Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what political and financial assistance they are providing to strengthen and develop the structures and mechanisms for interreligious dialogue and co-operation in Iraq.Continue reading
On 23rd January 2017, Baroness Cox asked the Government “what assessment they have made of recent developments in Sudan.” The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question:
Bishop of Durham: My Lords, while recognising that improvements between the Anglican Church of Sudan and the Sudanese Government have occurred, it remains the case that, after over a year, there are two Sudanese pastors, one Czech aid worker and a Sudanese civil rights activist still in al-Huda prison in Omdurman under the death penalty. Human rights activists say that there is no case at all. What contact have Ministers with the Government of Sudan regarding these prisoners and the treatment of Christians more generally?Continue reading
On the 12th January 2017 Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead held a debate about the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim people in Burma. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, pressed the Government to encourage the Burmese authorities to move towards full citizenship and rights for the Rohingya community, and to allow access for independent monitors to northern Rakhine.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the plight of the Rohingya Muslims is indeed desperate and the emergence in 2016 of an organised militant insurgency has only deepened the severity of that crisis. But such an escalation is hardly surprising. As the excellent report into the situation in Rakhine state by Crisis Group puts it:
“People pushed to desperation and anger, with no hope for the future, are more likely to embrace extremist responses, however counterproductive”.
The systematic persecution of the Rohingya people by the Burmese Government, most obviously manifested in the denial of citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, has created a fertile recruiting ground for militants. It is a simple human truth that people who have no say in their future and no means to participate in the democratic life of their country are liable to resort to extremism in order to achieve those means.Continue reading