“States need to feel comfortable and confident enough in their own skins, as one might put it, to uphold their core values for all citizens regardless of religious or non-religious background. Even in our own nation, it can sometimes appear to be a fragile commodity but we have the comfort of two centuries’ experience of relative tolerance. If freedom of religion is in many ways the fundamental right upon which all other rights turn, it is important for our and other Governments to remain actively engaged over the long term, pressing for the rights of all religious minority communities.”
On 29th October 2013, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, led a debate in the House of Lords to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the situation of religious minorities in the Middle East and North Africa after the events of the Arab Spring. He noted that the Arab Spring and resulting events were about issues of identity, political organisation and rights, all of which impact on the place of religious minorities. He urged wisdom and patience from the international community and urged for governments based on consent to be established throughout the region. He noted in particular the persecution of Christians in the region, including many groups historically amongst the earliest Christian communities. He commended the work of the Government in prioritising the freedom of religion but called for there to be consideration around the appointment of an Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I am very grateful for this opportunity to speak about the situation of religious minorities in the Middle East and north Africa since the Arab spring. The debate will, I hope, provide the opportunity to take a more detached view on developments over the past few years and to look at the underlying dynamics affecting religious minorities in the region.
Events in the Middle East since the start of the Arab spring have been a challenge not only to those living in the region but to all of us. Many, myself included, have viewed the series of uprisings which started in Tunisia through the lense of our experience of the Cold War. We wrongly assumed then that the fall of the Berlin Wall would usher in an era of tolerance and political pluralism throughout Europe. The reality was very different. Released from the uniformity of authoritarian rule, the former states of the USSR struggled with weak Governments to meet the diverse and competing aspirations of all their people. Often, as in the case of Balkans, those struggles turned horribly violent, with religion politicised as a marker of identity. Of course, the lessons of our own European history are seminal when trying to understand the transformations shaping the Middle East today. Revolutions are never simple and straightforward affairs. The Reign of Terror and the Vendée in France at the end of the 18th century were perhaps the beginning in our own modern era. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield leads debate on religious freedom in the Middle East and North Africa”
On 17th October 2013, a Government Statement was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary State for Schools, Lord Nash, on the Al-Madinah Free School in Derby. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, responded to the statement during the subsequent question and answer session.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I declare an interest as the Bishop of Derby and congratulate the Minister and his colleagues on the monitoring and firm action that is being taken. As I understand it, this is a very local initiative. What lessons can be learnt because if we do not have the local authority playing a key role, how are we providing the right kind of framework and guidance for local initiatives so that the right kind of standards, structures and expectations are put in place and met? What are we learning and how are we going to deal with that?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his question. This is a local initiative, it is quite a complicated situation and I do not have time to go into all the details now, but I can assure the House that we are all over this and will not allow this situation to continue.
On 17th October 2013 the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received answers to written question on the topics of civil service corporate credit cards, freedom of religion and the United Nations.
Civil Service: Corporate Credit Cards
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the rules and criteria for the issuing of corporate credit cards to civil servants; and how the use of such cards is monitored and audited.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: The Government Procurement Card (GPC) is a payment charge card used for making low value purchases. Its proper use contributes to making efficiencies.
All Departments have a clear policy for card allocation. The GPC Steering Group, established after the last General Election, has developed minimum policy standards for central Government departments and their Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs). GPC Central Policy describes the roles and responsibilities for personnel that are required to govern and control local GPC programmes. These policies have been shared with the National Audit Office (NAO) and must be followed by all departments using GPCs. Before the last General Election there was no central oversight of Government GPC card use.
All Departments now operate compliance checking processes which include transaction logs that must be reconciled with bank statements and receipts each month; and the requirement for budget managers to reconcile GPC payment to ensure compliance with approved spend. The departmental controls, in accordance with GPC policy, include monthly compliance checking, including identifying off-contract spend and clear guidance for users on the correct route-to-buy.
All spend on GPCs over £500 is now published.
(via Parliament.uk) Continue reading “Written Answers – Civil Service, Freedom of Religion and the United Nations”
On 22nd July 2013 the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question on the subject of freedom of religion.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the European Union guidelines on promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, agreed by the Council of Ministers on 24 June.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We worked closely with EU partners to develop guidelines for EU country offices to strengthen their work on the right to freedom of religion or belief across the world. We were gratified that these guidelines took as their original inspiration the UK’s own freedom of religion or belief toolkit. We believe the guidelines are a valuable tool for EU country offices and the embassies of individual EU member states to use, and look forward to strengthened joint working with our EU partners to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is more widely guaranteed and that any violations are tackled in the most effective manner.
In Church Commissioners Question TIme on Thursday 16th May 2013, Sir Tony Baldry MP asnwered questions on church bells, the same sex marriage bill, the Church of England, church attendance, religious freedom, and the English Baccalaureate.
Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): What support the Church Commissioners provide to refurbish church bells
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): Church bells are an important part of our national character and heritage, and the Church of England has some limited grant aid available for work to bells and bell frames that are of historic interest. This is distributed by the Church Buildings Council, which also provides advice to help churches approach other funders, including the Heritage Lottery Fund. Continue reading “MPs Questions to Sir Tony Baldry MP”